Time Passes Quickly -- But Drags for the Audience -- in Shyamalan's Old

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Old on Blu-ray

Based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Frederik Peeters, this latest venture from M. Night Shyamalan is built around the idea of an isolated beach where time advances at an accelerated rate. Anyone attempting to leave suffers mysterious blackouts and winds back up on the beach, although how they get there is never explained.

Shyamalan successfully blends the relativistic passages of time for the audience. I for one know I felt I had aged 40 years by the time this film was over.

The characters share a common factor in that they each have a medical condition of various kinds, whether physical or mental. They arrive at this resort by seeking out vacation spots and, by one means or another, find this place offered to them through various sweepstakes winnings or absurdly discounted rates. Regardless of how they were tempted to the spot, they arrive and the hotel suggests the beach to them as a recommended sight to see. Once there, they inevitably notice the passage of time is altered, first evidencing itself in the children who run off and come back appreciably older.

The rate of time is presented in the narrative as a constant, but visibly it is erratic. Even though the hotel provided a large pack of food, one would stille expect the entire party to die of starvation in a matter of minutes. This does not happen -- nor do their hair or beards grow out (one of the many anomalies explained away in the narrative with some pseudo-science about hair and nails being made of dead cells, disregarding the fact that the body still produces them). And while nobody starves, we do have a fifteen minute pregnancy cycle from conception to delivery, with things not working out for the baby when it's left alone for a single minute.

But the inconsistent applications of time in fast-forward isn't the only thing that makes watching Old a chore. It's the telegraphed plot points and heavy-handed introductions of the players. One of the children has a "hobby" where he asks strangers their names and what they do for a living. This is, of course, so that the audience can know who everyone is, the child playing the role of a Greek chorus presenting the dramatis personae.

While the overall implementation of Old is tiresome, it does have the kernel of an interesting premise. And while the explanations of why the beach acts as it does, and how the denouement could happen as quickly as it does (in "normal" time), we do at least get an interesting development at the end (where the interesting bits of most Shyamalan films come into play) with the explanation of why the hotel continues to find guests to send to this beach to die. So for those reasons alone, watch Old at least once.

But watch it in fast-forward.

3.0 / 5.0