Director Shyamalan unable let his latest venture ‘Old’ age very gracefully

In writer-director M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old,” his latest release, the characters at a secret beach resort age rapidly.

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Film Fare with M.V. Moorhead

A family of four arrives at a tropical resort and is sent, with other vacationers, to a beautiful secret beach enclosed by cliffs.

Weird stuff starts happening almost at once, and before long, the crux of the weirdness becomes clear: The guests are aging, at a rate of about two years per hour. The little kids start sprouting into hormonal adolescents and the grownups start to get wrinkles. Worse yet, every effort to leave the beach is repelled by mysterious forces.

MV Moorhead
M.V. Moorhead

Now in theaters, “Old” is the latest from the King of High Concept, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan. It’s adapted from a 2010 graphic novel known in English as “Sandcastle,” by French writer Pierre Oscar Levy and Swiss illustrator Frederik Peeters. The movie is like most of Shyamalan’s efforts: a brilliant idea, unevenly but fascinatingly executed.

“Old’s” story unfolds in a dreamlike style of short, disjointed bits of dialogue and oscillating camera movements. There are passages of dazzling originality and twisted, daring wit, dramatizing a familiar feeling: the terrifying and disorienting way that life seems to accelerate toward mortality as we get older.

The attractive cast includes Gael Garcia Bernal—strange to see the kid from “Y tu mama Tambien” turning into an old man—and Vicky Krieps as the mom and mad, who are harboring a secret from their son and daughter, not very well.

There are also amusing turns by Rufus Sewell as an unbalanced surgeon, Abbey Lee as his trophy wife, Ken Leung as a nurse, Nikki Amuka-Bird as his psychiatrist wife and Aaron Pierre as a rapper known by the stage name “Midsize Sedan.” A variety of good actors play the kids at various stages of development, and Clint’s freakily beautiful daughter Francesca Eastwood has a brief but striking role as a resort hostess.

The movie thrashes around in its final act, as Shyamalan tries for overt horror effects that are neither very frightening nor very coherent. He also tries to tie the movie up with a slapdash explanatory finale.

This wasn’t necessary. The idea was more evocative without this literalism. There’s a moment near the end that seemed to me like the perfect, touching point to close the story, but Shyamalan carries on for another 20 minutes or so, unable let his movie age gracefully.

“Old” is rated PG-13 and plays at Harkins Tempe Marketplace, Harkins Arizona Mills, Harkins Chandler Fashion 20 and other multiplexes.

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