Reminding José of 1970s auteur exploitation movies and Mike of The Twilight Zone, M. Night Shyamalan’s Old confines its characters, and most of its action, to an isolated beach at a high-class tropical resort. As you might expect with Shyamalan, it’s best seen with little advance knowledge, as the plot twists and turns, revelations throwing previous events into new light.
But we do, indeed, encourage you to see it – it’s perhaps the most entertaining film Shyamalan’s made in some time, and although his dialogue isn’t the finest you’ll ever hear, his camerawork is some of the most interesting. He’s a director who always seeks an interesting or expressive composition, who isn’t satisfied with shot-reverse shot, and his enthusiasm for the image is infectious. Some things could be better – some dramatic moments could be heightened, and it’s a fairly thin film that may not reward a second viewing, when there’s no hope of surprise. But the first viewing is an engrossing one, and we recommend it.
Anthony Hopkins is magnificent as The Father‘s title character, an old man losing his grip on reality to dementia, in debut director Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his own stage play. We discuss the techniques the film uses to situate the audience within the mind of a dementia sufferer, and whether they lose their potency as the film develops. The Father‘s origins on stage are obvious in its sparse setting and focus on dialogue, and we suggest that the raw power of seeing the performances live, an immediacy, is lost here – though the cast, particularly Hopkins and Olivia Colman, are impressive nonetheless. Mike argues that the film somehow lacks enough plot to even fill its 97-minute duration, and would have worked better as a short film – José suggests that it ends up in cliché.
Still, for a while at least, it’s an extraordinarily effective dramatisation of what it might feel like to suffer from dementia, convinced of your own mental acuity while contradicted by everyone and everything around you. The Father doesn’t offer a pleasant experience, but it is a valuable one.