As a high-concept fable about time and aging, Old shows early promise with a group of strangers stranded on a beach where the flow of time means that they will age a full lifetime in the span of just one day. Sadly the writing never comes close to a coherent or thoughtful exploration of these ideas and dialogue is painfully stilted. Instead the premise gets old fast, which would be impressive were it deliberate. Although Shyamalan continues to attract talented actors, there is no depth to characters who are mere cyphers (an actuary worried about future risk married to a museum curator interested in the past) or fodder for the plot, all ultimately hapless victims as the film leans into temporal body horror. Shyamalan remains a victim of early success as — though this is not a film that relies on a grand twist — he does try to cram in narrative complexity at the end, which does little more than highlight an intriguing bioethics angle that might have been more engaging if it were more than an afterthought. Old is a tedious way to lose two hours of your life but at least it is never scary enough to age you prematurely.
“Our memories, they have to be passed down by those who knew us in life — in the stories they tell about us.”
It is no secret that I have been unimpressed by Pixar’s commodified output over the past decade, with only 2015’s Inside Out providing a welcome glimmer of the studio’s former heights. Coco proves that this was not a fluke. Although the trailers pushed the musical angle, Coco is really a film about family, the importance of keeping the story of our past alive and not burying uncomfortable history. The plot is a fairly standard Disney adventure — despite some flourishes about storytelling, this was handled more deftly by Kubo and the Two Strings and Coco suffers a little by comparison. The creativity emerges through the unusual setting of the Mexican land of the dead. Although much of this imagery is adopted and interpreted, Pixar is fully embracing Mexican culture rather than merely appropriating the aesthetic — the traditions and values of Día de Muertos permeate the film and the story. Ultimately Coco resonated in particular because it shares my view of death: that those we love are not truly gone so long as we remember them and carry them with us.