Guy and Prisca are a married couple who have decided to travel to a luxurious tropical resort with their two young children, Maddox and Trent. It will be their last family vacation before they divorce, something they have decided to keep a secret for the children in order to let them have one great vacation together before splitting up. The resort’s manager tells them about a beautiful secluded beach that he admits to only revealing to some of his guests, and they travel there together with three additional parties: a rapper called Mid-Sized Sedan and his female companion, a surgeon named Charles with his wife Chrystal, their young daughter Kara and Charles’ mother Agnes, and Jarin and Patricia, a husband and wife. A driver (played my M. Night Shyamalan himself) takes them to the area where they can get to the beach, but he refuses to go anywhere near the place himself. Not suspicious at all…
After walking through a cave they get to the beautiful beach, and is indeed stunned by the place. Everything quickly turns into disaster, however, when one of the people ends up drowning, quickly followed by Agnes suddenly dying. They try to go back through the caves where they came from in order to get help, but no matter how often they try, they end up dizzy and disorientated inside the cave and eventually blacks out, returning back to the beach every time. One strange event after the other takes place, and when the children have turned into teenagers the group realize that the area is rapidly aging them. Additionally, they also discover that each of the parties at the beach have at least one family member with an underlying medical condition.
Old is an adaption of a graphic novel from 2010, by Pierre Oscar Lévy (writer) and Frederik Peeters (artist), called Sandcastle. Mr. Shyamalan got it as a Father’s Day gift, and explained that his inspiration for making a movie adaption of it was that he could work through a lot of anxieties he had around aging and the inevitable death, and his parents getting older. And who doesn’t think about aging and death, unavoidably shuddering at the thought of your loved ones and yourself getting older and perhaps suffering from age-related problems? We are constantly reminded of these things through media, and you can hardly browse through anything without there at least being one ad or article about how to “stay young”, how to keep from aging with this or that (bullshit) remedy, how to avoid certain age-related health issues by eating/doing/buying x, y and z, etc. No matter what fear people have in regards to getting older, most people have them to some degree, whether it be due to the risk of health problems, watching their loved ones grow old and die, or more trivial matters like losing their youthful appearance and attractiveness. And all of these themes are displayed through the various characters that find themselves trapped on the beach where their age is rapidly increasing. Some of these themes aren’t really thoroughly explored, however, and some of the characters behave a bit oddly with some clunky dialogue here and there. There are times when you can’t help but to chuckle a bit over certain things that happen, but with an odd and somewhat surreal tone it felt more intentional than unintentional.
The cinematography is great, but shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when looking at the cinematographer’s name: Mike Gioulakis, who also did the cinematography in It Follows and Us. The film was also shot on 35mm, whereas M. Night Shyamalan has previously only shot films digitally since The Last Airbender (2010).
The ending is something that I’m a bit tempted to write about, but I will need to steer clear of that in order to avoid spoilers. All I will say is that the old saying “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” comes to mind…
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Country & year: USA, 2021
Actors:Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Eliza Scanlen, Aaron Pierre, Embeth Davidtz, Emun Elliott, Alexa Swinton, Gustaf Hammarsten, Kathleen Chalfant, Francesca Eastwood, Nolan River, Luca Faustino Rodriguez, Mikaya Fisher, Kailen Jude, M. Night Shyamalan