LH Film Reviews: OLD

OLD by M Night Shyamalan is a symptom of Hollywood’s obsession with adaptation

Forrest Estes, Reporter

OLD, directed by M Night Shyamalan, is a movie that made a scene on its arrival in theatres, spawning memes based on its premise: a group of vacationers trapped on a beach where time has become accelerated.
Memes and online reviews paint the film as a mess, a perfect coalescence of all the classic Shyamalan tropes into the perfect trainwreck. The movie knows what viewers want from a Shyamalan movie in 2021, everyone knows the twist is coming and everything is a clue. While this does make for good suspense as the characters slowly reveal the mechanics of the beach and the circumstances of their stranding, it doesn’t make for a good story. 

The story of OLD is based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters but it’s clear it has been rebuilt for Shyamalan. While the movie is focused on the twist and questions about the greater world these characters are in, the book focuses on two things, a conflict, and the people facing the conflict. The graphic novel at its core is a character study, throughout the novel we witness every stage of human development and every side of the human condition. It’s a deep story about mortality, racism, the meaning of life, and our place in the universe. It’s extremely fascinating and extremely heady and notably, there is no twist at the end, just the crushing inevitability of time. 

This novel has been begging for an adaptation since its publishing in 2013 and the fact that this is what we received is disappointing. So much of the DNA of the source material has been removed in order to make room for Shyamalan’s trademark style, including the twist. The dialogue is awkward, everyone speaks with extreme vagueness even in times where communication is extremely important. 

Ultimately the movie’s greatest downfall is the fact it was given to M. Night Shyamalan. The film is a symptom of Hollywood’s greater obsession with adaptation over translation. Another example of this being the planned Hollywood adaptation of the Korean movie Train to Busan. Rather than directly translate a piece of media to film, be it metaphorically or literally, Hollywood would much rather create its own version of something with a profitable name attached to it. In summary, OLD by M. Night Shyamalan has an amazing concept that was utterly wasted on this movie. While the movie itself is not terrible, an adaptation of Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters should, and easily could have been, so much more.