Old: Film Review

Old

Universal Pictures

M. Night Shyamalan‘s films have been a mixed bag for me but I always approach them with high hopes because I know I’m going to get some out-there, innovative filmmaking and I was particularly excited for Old because the trailer looked awesome.

His latest supernatural horror/thriller follows Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and their two children Trent and Maddox (predominantly played by Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie) as they go on a luxury tropical holiday. One day, on the suggestion of the resort’s manager, they visit a nearby secluded beach with fellow holidaymakers Charles (Rufus Sewell), Chrystal (Abbey Lee), their daughter Kara (mostly Eliza Scanlen) and Charles’ mother Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant). They soon realise there is something very wrong with the beach – it causes them to age rapidly, compressing their entire lives into a single day.

For starters, what a terrific, fresh and exciting concept. The trailer hooked me in right away and I couldn’t wait to see what happened and how the beach’s horrifying powers were explained. But – and it saddens me to write this – the execution of the idea was very poor and it loses its impact when stretched across a 108-minute movie.

The worst offender is the dialogue. The screenplay is simply not good. The actors are lumbered with so much clunky exposition, explaining what’s happened and theorising what they could try next, which is understandable given the circumstances, but it all felt too heavy-handed and overdone, with characters stating the damn obvious and reeling off important information and facts in an unrealistic way. This leads me directly onto issue number two…

The acting. The weak script and thinly defined characters meant that the actors didn’t have much to work with and had to wrangle with clumsy dialogue. This was most notable with Krieps (who I loved in Phantom Thread) as she oversells all her lines and comes across like she’s “acting” rather inhabiting her character. Nobody is unscathed and there isn’t really a standout performer, although I thought McKenzie did well as a teenager trapped in a more mature body in some scenes.

I have other issues too – the film spends too long on the beach and starts to lose momentum, plus there were some unnecessary scenes at the end and not a satisfying amount of explanation for what we just saw. I’m also not convinced the timeline of events added up, and other characters on the beach – such as rapper Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre) – were literally just there to boost the body count and don’t have much to do.

But there are some positives! I found it really interesting seeing a person’s life being distilled down into one day and I liked how it looked at ageing and mortality. Shyamalan also effectively created an unsettling, unnerving and at times, chilling atmosphere, complete with a couple of cringe-inducing body horror moments. The beach setting (in the Dominican Republic) is stunning and the ageing effects were subtle and well done.

Like many of Shyamalan’s movies, Old is going to divide opinion so I recommend you checking it out just to see whether you fall into the like it or loathe it camp.

In cinemas from Friday 23rd July

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The Father: Film Review

The Father

While most people were shocked by Anthony Hopkins’ Best Actor win back in April, I was thrilled because I had been campaigning for him to win for his heartbreaking performance in The Father since I saw it earlier this year.

The Father, co-written and directed by Florian Zeller from his 2012 play La Pere, tells the story of Anthony (Hopkins) and his battle with dementia and shows his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) struggling to figure out what the best course of action is with his care.

I went in expecting The Father to be a fairly conventional two-hander where it’s just two people talking in a room and thought it would be a powerful but generic drama about ageing. How wrong I was! Zeller manages to place the audience in the shoes of Anthony and show us what it’s like to be losing your grip on your own mind. It’s incredibly clever but absolutely unnerving, particularly in the beginning when you don’t know what’s going on. Just like Anthony, I struggled to figure out what was real and what was not, what the facts of the story really were, and which actors were the true Anne and the true version of her partner Paul (Rufus Sewell). It was confusing and it was incredibly frustrating and exasperating – which is exactly how we are supposed to feel. The film forces us to see things from Anthony’s perspective, get into his mindset, and it makes it all the more heartwrenching. Normally my confusion would put me off a film but I could understand and appreciate the point Zeller was trying to make so it didn’t on this occasion.

With the narrative being so tricky to make sense of, the film really needed to be anchored by solid performances and it certainly is. Hopkins runs the gamut of emotions as Anthony – he is angry, cruel, confused, frustrated, vulnerable, giddy with joy, and switched on – and he threw himself into the part and sold all those personality switches completely. I don’t want to ruin anything but his final scene is one of the most heartbreaking and devastating pieces of acting I’ve seen in ages and it brought me to tears. What a terrific performance. He truly deserved his win.

Colman was nominated for her supporting performance here and you can see why – Anne is really struggling to know what to do with her dad. She doesn’t want to put him in a home but he cannot look after himself and he’s been driving his carers away by being so nasty. Looking after someone with dementia is a tough, tiring task and yet she shoulders the responsibility, even when he is mean to her. You can see she has the weight of the world on her shoulders and your heart breaks for her too. She is the emotional heart of the piece. They have great support from Sewell as Anne’s partner, who is desperate to put her dad in a home, Imogen Poots as his sweet but often accidentally condescending carer, and Mark Gatiss and Olivia Williams as the random confusing characters (which make sense at the end).

Most of the time you can really tell when a film is based on a play but The Father was less obvious because it is so dynamic. The flat – the film’s primary location – changes a lot to reflect Anthony’s mindset, time doesn’t feel linear, and scenes are replayed with some differences, from what’s said, who is talking, what they’re wearing etc.

There was so much more to this than I was expecting – it blew me away! It is the most empathetic portrayal of dementia I’ve ever seen, without a doubt. Wow.

In U.K. cinemas from Friday 11th June

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

My Pics: Renee Zellweger and Jessie Buckley at the Judy European premiere

Last night, Renee Zellweger hit the pink carpet at London’s Curzon Mayfair for the rainy European Premiere of her upcoming Judy Garland biopic Judy. And I have all the pics!

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