HomeMovies'Old' is a Fast-Paced and Emotional Drama

‘Old’ is a Fast-Paced and Emotional Drama

Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff in OLD
Photo Courtesy Universal Pictures

Written by Sam Niles

A year is technically the same amount of time for all, but that year will feel longer for a five-year-old than a 40-year-old. Similarly, time passes at the same disorienting rate on Old’s supernatural beach (1 hour=2 years), but this will disorient different viewers of different ages differently. 

Because of this, Old’s unsung hero is its pacing.   

There are so many different ages, bodies, and minds being impacted against their will, that there’s very little structural grounding. Any comfort a traditional structure might unconsciously provide is gone: the only constant is relentless, all consuming speed. 

The film takes occasional breathers, dispersing moments of exposition here and there. Their clarity gives you hope that the madness might stop, the disorientation will orient, and all will be fine. Even darker, bittersweet moments of existential acceptance give comfort. When Maddox (Alexa Swinton at age 11, Thomasin McKenzie 16 and up) has a cathartic, almost mindless walk into the ocean, she’s accepting that her world has changed and that she may not survive the day. As heavy as this moment is, there’s relief in the acceptance. 

That hope and relief are always cut short. The all-consuming pace throws the characters into unexpected horrors, and while they learn the “rules” of the beach and how to deal with these horrors, this only goes so far. Momentary anxieties or lapses of judgement can have fatal consequences, and it doesn’t matter if you have the math of the beach figured out. Each of these characters is human and prone to their own failings. 

It’s in these distinct failings that the drama is sown. M. Night Shyamlan’s script mixes and matches psychological and physical traits with an enthusiastic, experimental fascination. How does a tumor impact Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and Guy’s (Gael Garcia Bernal) marriage? How is that tumor impacted by this supernatural place? What ripple effect will all this have on the surrounding characters? 

A candidate for the most compelling of these characterizations would be Trent’s (Nolan River at age 6, Alex Wolff 15 and up). Trent starts the film as a verbose little kid, proudly functioning like a walking thesaurus. Later, Wolff briefly plays up the childishness of a six-year-old: when he’s about to experience a major life moment well beyond his age, he emotionally shouts at his parents that he and Kara (Mikaya Fisher age 6, Eliza Scanlen 15 and up) will never yell at each other and “never get divorced”, just as any naive kid might. 

But Trent isn’t a “kid trapped in an adult body” for very long. When he pleads with Kara later in the movie, he’s using similarly broad, simple language as his “never yell, never divorce” scene, professing his love to a girl he just met that morning. But rather than a kid who doesn’t know how tough life can get, he’s now a man who’s accepted that he may die on this beach and just wants Kara by his side. Wolff’s aimless shouts become a focused, terrified rage from someone whose mind is starting to mature as quickly as the rest of his body.

It’s in this diversity of tone, character and drama that the film shines. Having seen it twice, I can’t get over how a supposed throwaway gag, where Chrystal (Abby Lee) insists she have her necessary calcium, is paid off with a sympathetic look at anxiety and body horror, in a scene that will give you the purest heebie jeebies. The film is a whiplash inducing nightmare, always asking itself, “what else can I make them feel?”

Old discovers many answers to that question, and I highly recommend you discover what the film has to offer. 

Old is now playing in theaters.

Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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