There’s a sincerity to the work of M. Night Shyamalan that many viewers take for granted. His films wear their emotions and messages clearly on their sleeves. Old is no exception, opening with the characters making playful, obvious jokes about the future and slowing down to appreciate the here and now before trapping them on a mysterious beach that ages them a full year every half-hour. Shyamalan and cinematographer Mike Gioulakis consistently toy with depth of field and make unusual choices around where they point the camera and how they move it, often leaving faces off-frame or muddling them. This will undoubtedly turn some viewers off (and already has), but there is method to the madness. It shifts weight to the emotional beats, be they tender or horrifying, and the concept makes every decision the characters make twice as urgent.
The ensemble, which includes Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, and Rufus Sewell, is game for anything the film throws at them, whether it’s Junji Ito-esque body horror or down-to-earth musings on life. The journey to the finale is gripping, though the last act — less of the big twist Shyamalan is known for and more of a stretch of unnecessarily drawn out exposition — overstays its welcome. Old is a fun parable that literalizes the way life passes in a flash while also railing against the larger forces that manipulate us.
Old opens in theaters July 23.