Old ★★★★½

Oh no.

Wonderful day at the movies today, even before actually going to the theater. First in the morning, the discovery of a certified banger of an oldie that I can recommend to anyone who remotely loves movies. Then, first film at the theater, a somewhat disposable but still at least for me entertaining popcorn afternoon feature with hot people and ninja action. Finally, we reach this, a film I was frankly uncertain on what I would think about it going into it, and then I walk out of it kind of loving it to pieces. 2021, with this and Pig so close to each other, is now truly showing itself to be a great year for film. And hey, if you want stellar movies about getting old and the world not only moving on without you but forcing you to literally outgrow it, and you also want these movies to star Alex Wolff, may I guide you to Pig and Old. The return of M. Night Shyamalan after he just knocked my socks off with the emotional whirlwind of Glass offers up what could initially be summarized as a modern B-movie with the appropriate quirks, oddities, and thrill factor of a high-concept horror/thriller from decades ago. (Think about how Us and Get Out feel like feature-length Twilight Zone episodes. Old offers up that fix too, and man, is that fix strong.) If I can think of more specific things to compare this movie to, its dialogue, which people on Twitter have already been skewering, is verbose and sometimes stilted like you would see from a Yorgos Lanthimos picture. But, look, if he can do it and get praised, M. Night should be able to do it too, and if you ask me, he does that shtick here just as well. I want to frankly give a virtual round of applause to the child actors in this, and then more specifically, the actors who then have to play these versions of these characters that look older but still have to act childish. With their unique physical and verbal quirks established early on, it's a performance tour de force to see what this group of actors can do to evolve these characters both naturally and forcefully throughout the runtime. Another point of comparison that, somehow, I wasn't even thinking would be possible is David Cronenberg. If I can sell you with anything about Old, let it be that it's M. Night doing his slower-paced but impactful version of body horror. At its best, it's absolutely terrifying and nerve-wracking. One bit of body horror involving skin needing to be cut and kept open actually made me wince and cover my mouth, which like, doesn't really happen to me with much anymore. So, good job, M. Night, you got under my skin with that. A later moment actually disturbed me so much that it almost made me cry. I won't even hint at this moment beyond saying that you'll know it when you see it, because it's easily the most physical punishment a character has to go through in this. I also mention that this moment almost made me cry, because wouldn't you know it, like two or three minutes later, I actually do cry. Not from terror, but from a moment so emotionally heartbreaking that it felt like I had to. That was the most surprising part about Old but I do think that was partially me underestimating just how good M. Night is with earnest emotion. Anyone who tells you he doesn't understand human emotion either hasn't watched one of his movies or didn't watch remotely as close as they should have. Glass famously made me cry too, so M. Night, you're two for two now, you beautiful bastard. A lesser filmmaker would have kept Old to its physicality with its drama and thrills. Since we're talking M. Night here, the things that end up being most important to the movie are family, mortality, and what it's like for you to go through the entire emotional state of growing old in a single day. Secrets are found out, there's contemplation, and by the end, there's self-destruction, cruelty towards others, or a peaceful end with all transgressions forgiven. The final scene shared between Krieps and Bernal only kept the tears flowing even more after they started. I think I've spoken at least my initial peace with this film. Clearly, if you can, go see this in a theater. The surround sound transports you to this beach, and even if you get uncomfortable, the stellar camerawork, editing, and locale is going to keep you in for the full attraction. If I can, since I think this is also up my dad's alley, may see this again pretty soon. Regardless, M. Night, another knock out of the park, a win for cinema.


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