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Review: Crystal Waters, Soft Sands, Clunky Dialogue In ‘Old’

Review: Crystal Waters, Soft Sands, Clunky Dialogue In ‘Old’

Can you believe I found this online? a delighted Prisca asks husband Guy at the beginning of Old, as their family arrives at a glistening beach resort.

Can you believe I found this online? a delighted Prisca asks husband Guy at the beginning of Old, as their family arrives at a glistening beach resort.

Not to be a Debbie Downer quite so soon, but this isnt a good sign for the family OR the film. Can you believe I found this online? has become the hackneyed catchphrase of the vacation horror movie. Every time a character says that, whether at a dreamy English estate or a stunning coastal retreat, you can set your watch the first body will appear in minutes.

Still, we hope for the best. Old is an M. Night Shyamalan film, so you know the premise will be clever and provocative. And frankly, were a captive audience. Its summer, its been an awful year, and we could all use two hours on a beautiful beach, even if its virtual. Just give us a few meaty characters we can root for, a modicum of backstory to make us care, and decent dialogue to move things along. Not much to ask, right?

Apparently, it is. Because Shyamalan bafflingly dispenses with all that, relying solely on an enticing premise and pretty scenery. Its just not enough.

The characters are quirky, but trust us, not in a good way in an annoying, instantly tedious, I-dare-you-to-care-about-me way. The kids are nice enough, but each adult is more exasperating than the next, and more ridiculous. Its perhaps not their fault. The dialogue is often cartoonishly clumsy. Youll surely find yourself belly-laughing several times, only to sheepishly remind yourself this isnt a comedy.

Prisca and Guy are vacationing with their kids, Trent, 6, and Maddox, 10. Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) is an anxious insurance actuary not the most logical use of Bernals charms, but OK constantly spouting stats on how people die in accidents. Prisca (Vicky Krieps) is a museum curator, clearly holding back a secret. There are marital troubles, perfunctorily established in an early scene where the couple argues, kids listening in. Youre always thinking of the future! Prisca yells. It makes me feel not seen!! Guy replies: Youre always thinking of the past! The kids have no idea what the heck theyre talking about. Honestly, would you?

The next day, theyre offered a tantalizing opportunity by the creepy resort manager: a trip to a secluded beach on a nature preserve, surrounded by cliffs. Soon theyre off in a hotel van (driven by Shyamalan himself, in a small part) along with another family: Charles, an imperious doctor (Rufus Sewell), Chrystal, his young, beauty-obsessed wife (Abbey Lee), their young daughter and the doctors older mother.

On the gorgeous beach, things quickly turn weird. Maddox recognizes a well-known rapper named Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre), sitting dazed in the distance. Trent goes swimming, only to confront the floating corpse of a woman, whod recently been spending time with the rapper. The group tries to call for help, but theres no signal. Two new guests arrive Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird), a therapist who suffers epileptic seizures, and her husband Jarin (Ken Leung), a nurse.

But all this turbulence pales against whats suddenly happening to everyone: Theyre aging. Rapidly. Its more visible with the kids, who suddenly go from school-aged to teenagers (Alex Wolff and the lovely but underused Thomasin McKenzie). Panic sets in, and theres no way out when anyone tries to leave, something attacks their brain and they black out.

Whats happening? The group calculates that a half-hour on that beach equals a year of life. Obviously, people will die. The only question is who goes first.

But … we dont care about any of them! If we’d been made to care, maybe wed be concerned when someone has a soccer-ball sized tumor removed from their stomach. Or by the unintended pregnancy, the mental breakdown, the murder, the drowning, the seizure oh, and one very bad calcium deficiency!

How silly is the dialogue? Small example: Amid the bloody mayhem on the beach, Trent says earnestly to his parents: Dad, Mom, you guys gotta stay hydrated. Again, this is NOT played for laughs.

Of course, it all comes down to a Shyamalan-style final twist the most entertaining part of the film, but it comes way, way too late. Listen, were all up for some summer fun on the beach. But by the time were allowed in on the secret here, were feeling a bit tired. And maybe for good reason. This film lasts an hour and 48 minutes. So, just a warning: By the end, youll be four years older.

Old, a Universal release, has been rated PG-13 for strong violence, disturbing images, suggestive content, partial nudity and brief strong language. Running time: 108 minutes. Two stars out of four.

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MPAA definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned, some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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first published:July 23, 2021, 04:03 IST