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Film Review: Even with Great Performances, This “Old Man” Is Confused

Written by: Adam Vaughn | October 13th, 2022

Film poster: “Old Man”

Old Man (Lucky McKee, 2022) 2 out of 4 stars.

Towards the beginning of Halloween season comes Old Man, from director Lucky McKee (Kindred Spirits), starring Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe) in the titular role. With a very small supporting cast of Marc Senter (The Free Fall), Patch Darragh (The First Purge), and Liana Wright-Mark (Ocean’s Eight), the film does a decent job telling a compelling drama. Unfortunately, where Old Man falls short is in following a coherent narrative structure. Old Man tells the story of a man (Lang) living his life alone and off of the land. When a young traveler Joe (Senter) stumbles upon the old man’s cabin, he is kept as a prisoner/guest and caught in a battle of wits with a hostile host. As the two talk, the old man realizes that things are not always what they seem.

This is where the film becomes conflicted. At its start, Old Man launches a rather thrilling scenario, with high stakes for Joe as he struggles to stay safe and survive his night with the old man. I was very much reminded of Don’t Breathe and Lang’s frightening antagonist, and the man-versus-man scenario presented gave me The Lighthouse vibes. There is also some frightening imagery that gives the film a tortured feel, much like the trapped and claustrophobic sensation found in one of the Saw movies (hold the grotesqueness!).

Stephen Lang in OLD MAN ©RLJE Films

Then, suddenly, a major plot twist in the film turns Old Man into an unwanted psychological thriller. All is not as it appears for the old man, and unfortunately this sends the plot into a strange and unexplained avant-garde experience where all the other characters become figments of imagination. For me, this unravels an already established (and well executed) plot line and makes it a completely different, less-than-original premise. Sadly not all the introduced ideas make complete sense, and the open-ended conclusion leaves the viewer unsatisfied and needing more information.

In the end, this small feature film has terrific initial elements, but tries to up the stakes with complicated ideas and metaphysical sequences. Abandoning its well-established character study, Old Man soon becomes about the struggles of a psychologically challenged man with a troubled history. While I admire a good plot twist, I will always wonder what Old Man would have been if it had stuck to its script and presented a thriller grounded in realism.

Marc Senter in OLD MAN ©RLJE Films

Adam Vaughn is a graduate of the Film & Moving Image program at Stevenson University, with a focus in Cinematography and Production. He also has a minor in Theater and Media Performance. Adam works as a freelance photographer and videographer, focusing his craft on creating compelling photographic and cinematic imagery. Adam is excited to join the Film Festival Today team and explore the world of cinema and visual arts.

2 thoughts on “Film Review: Even with Great Performances, This “Old Man” Is Confused

  1. I saw OLD MAN with five friends and all agreed it was a mesmerizing film, especially because of the plot twist. Somehow, you missed the irony in that, but that’s why different people have different opinions.

    1. Hey Barry, I was very captivated by the film’s intensity at first, and I do enjoy a well deserved plot twist!
      For me, this plot twist seemed a bit out of nowhere, and crosses out the established tension between the Old Man and Joe. Where once we had a hyper-realistic tone of man vs man, now all of a sudden the entire plot is a single character study.
      Definitely didn’t see it coming! But as a narrative convention it seemed unnecessary.
      But like you said, different people had different opinions! I think we can all agree the film had good tension, high stakes, and was a very driving film.

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