Old

Old ★★★

Two M. Night Shyamalans fight it out in OLD. One is a director with a flair for gracefully off-kilter images that play out the film's emotional dynamics. (The reverse shots into woozy, distorted close-ups when lovers are talking to each other are a brilliant touch, as is the fragility implicit in shots where one person talking is shoved out of the frame.) The other is a sentimental cornball, but that's pretty forgivable and part of Shyamalan's personality as a director. His tendency to over-explain the plot, relying on clumsy dialogue, is a bigger problem. My opinion of OLD kept rising and falling, and the final 10 minutes resulted in a lower rating. The film strains far too hard to make sense rather than fully embracing mystery, but could it get a studio release if it didn't?

I'm not sure what to make of the way its body horror is so gendered. Men suffer from the island's premature aging, sure, but they don't need to have tumors the size of soccer balls cut out of their stomachs or die by collapsing into their rib cages. Is it misogyny or a reflection on the fact that women pay a greater social penalty for aging than men, especially in Hollywood?

Steve Erickson liked these reviews