We’ve been waiting for the new M. Night Shyamalan movie for what feels like ages, and the time has finally come. The writer-director-producer is known for his lurching plot twists, but based on what we know about Old from the trailer alone, we’re having a hard time imagining how the new film could get any more twisted…
They say time flies when you’re having fun—but on the secluded coast where Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps head for a beach day, it takes off at an aggressive and terrifying speed. Not long after settling in, their young children sprout into teenagers. They themselves turn wrinkled and gray. Others on the beach find themselves getting pregnant, having children (or grandchildren!) and even dying—all within an unnaturally short amount of time.
Time is already scary enough in the real world, but Shyamalan makes it even more of an inescapable force in Old. It’s one of the most potent themes that a movie can play with, as the dense history of time-travel titles can attest to.
To get us ready for time’s trickery in Old, we’re brushing up on a few other mind-mashing plots. Whether forward, backward or any number of other convoluted directions, how these movies play with time is sure to have you scratching your head—in the best way.
Take the premise of Old, strike it, and reverse it—that’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, more or less. For Benjamin, time moves forward but his body ages backward: After being born as a tiny old man, he experiences childhood as a senior and, eventually, old age as a young child. (We wouldn’t blame you if you have to read that last part twice.) The middle of his life, however, is a blitz of glory, when his mind and body line up with those of his adult peers. This makes room for a brief, fiery affair with childhood friend Daisy, although their close friendship and love story spans a lifetime. The movie manages to squeeze 84 years into 166 minutes, making for a mind-blowing but tender and touching epic (which is based on a 1922 F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, by the way).
The guy who has given us Memento, Inception, Dunkirk and most recently Tenet certainly has a mild obsession with time play, but we’re not complaining. It’s made for one of the most impressive time-bending filmographies in movie history—and also makes it nearly impossible to pick just one gem from Christopher Nolan’s catalog …
But today we’ll go with Interstellar. The 2014 space odyssey explores the elusive and mostly uncontrollable nature of time, and how it becomes even more mysterious beyond Earth’s atmosphere. As part of an astronaut crew sent to scout other planets conducive to human life, Coop leaves his daughter Murph with a wristwatch and a promise to return. But every time things go haywire on the mission (and in space, they often do), it has grave consequences on his homecoming timeline. Linearity is further scrambled by wormholes, cryostasis freeze pods and the fact that on some planets, one hour is equivalent to seven years on Earth. We’re hoping you’ve already seen this cinematic staple—but just in case you haven’t, suffice to say that all the temporal irregularities lead to some very interesting father-daughter dynamics between Coop and Murph.
Having family troubles? According to this movie, a little time travel might be just what you need. In the animated film, 4-year-old Kun grows jealous when his newborn baby sister starts to eat up all the attention in the house, and as he pouts around the family garden, a magical tree whisks him away across space and time. A la A Christmas Carol, each encounter with the past and future work to impart Kun with a little perspective. In the past, he meets up with his mother and great-grandfather as children; in the future, he stumbles into his little sister and himself as teenagers. (He’s also greeted at one point by the man his dog used to be before reincarnation!) It’s a lot for adult viewers to digest, let alone for the preschooler Kun. But despite the dizzying intergenerational interplay, he hangs in there and helps make Mirai the epic existential fantasy that it is.
And a quick list of a few more more time-bending classics: Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, Palm Springs (and even 50 First Dates, depending on how you spin it)—there’s truly no way you can pick just one. Instead we recommend finding the time for what would be a very disorienting movie marathon. Add just a few more to the queue if you dare (like Run Lola Run, Happy Death Day, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Two Distant Strangers, which recently won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short), and please report back on whether you can still walk straight or read a clock afterward.