‘Old’ movie review: M Night Shyamalan’s holiday from hell partly engages

The director’s need to have a twist in his tale seems a bit contrived, and leaving things unsaid would have been more effective than the detailed explanations

This is the third bunch of vacationers after The White Lotus and Nine Perfect Strangers finding that R&R at a beautiful island resort might not be exactly what the doctor ordered. With the pandemic putting paid to travel, all these gorgeous resorts turning out to have ugly, horrid warts must be a way of consoling ourselves of the essential sourness of the glorious grapes.

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Director M. Night Shyamalan, who also wrote the screenplay, based Old on the French graphic novel Sandcastle. Guy Cappa (Gael García Bernal), his wife, Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and their children, 11-year-old Maddox (Alexa Swinton) and six-year-old Trent (Nolan River) arrive at Anamika (that should have set alarm bells ringing for anyone who knows Hindi) Resort on vacation.

There is an Armond-type resort manager (Gustaf Hammarsten) who greets the family and arranges a visit to a secluded beach, that he assures them they would enjoy. On the beach, apart from the Cappa family, there is a surgeon, Charles (Rufus Sewell), his wife, Chrystal (Abbey Lee), their six-year-old daughter, Kara (Kylie Begley) and Charles’ mum, Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant), rapper Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre), a psychologist, Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird), and her husband, Jarin (Ken Leung), a nurse.


  • Director: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Cast: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Eliza Scanlen, Aaron Pierre, Embeth Davidtz and Emun Elliott
  • Storyline: A vacation on an idyllic beach turns into a nightmare
  • Duration: 108 minutes

When the first body washes ashore, you wonder if you are going to be treated to an Agatha Christie-style whodunit complete with a closed circle of suspects all of who seem to be hiding something. However, that is not the road Shyamalan treads on, leaning towards a Lord of the Flies-vibe even as time takes on an unsettling elastic quality. As all attempts to leave the beach are thwarted by unseen forces, and the body count mounts with alarming ferocity, the group has to come to terms with the fact that there are several ugly snakes in their Garden of Eden.

Parallels have been drawn between Old and the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown has caused us to feel like time has stopped still; look at the months of blursdays. Shyamalan’s need to have a twist in his tale might seem a bit contrived, and leaving things unsaid would have been more effective than the detailed explanations. The stretchable time concept does not stand up to even the most cursory scrutiny. The film is, however, engaging for its beautiful location and the chance to see Sewell repeat his ambiguous morality turn after his role as Mark Easterbrook in the adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Pale Horse.

Old is currently running in theatres


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