Aging can be both a daunting and scary process. As we grow older, more things slip out of our control. Our vision, hearing, mobility change where they might not be as crisp as they once were in our youth. Then, there are the thoughts of mortality and who and what we leave behind. Did I do everything I wanted to? Did I tell that person I loved them enough? Life is meant for living in full, but we all have an end date. It’s that unknown that both frightens us and emboldens us to live the best we can.
Based on Sandcastle, the 2010 graphic novel by Frederik Peeters and Pierre Oscar Lévy, director/writer M. Night Shyamalan tackles this concept with his own Twilight Zone-esque flavor. Take the concept of aging and time and speed it up to a dizzying degree in a confined area. How would the human psyche deal with losing time with such ferocity? In the beginning, we are introduced to one singular family. Guy (Gael García Bernal and Prisca Cappa (Vicky Krieps) take their two children, Maddox (Embeth Davidtz) and Trent (Emun Elliott) on a vacation. Unbeknownst to their youngest, Guy and Prisca are about to divorce. The hotel is secluded and when they arrive; they have drinks tailored to them. Everything seems fine, but there’s a sinister undercurrent that’s operating under the surface.
At that point, Shyamalan interjects other characters who will play a major role in the story. Charles (Rufus Sewell) is a surgeon who is at the resort with his young daughter, Kara (Kylie Begley), his younger wife, Chrystal (Abbey Lee), and his mother, Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant). Another married couple consisting of Jarin (Ken Leung) and Patricia Carmichael (Nikki Amuka-Bird), a nurse and psychologist. Lastly, there’s a rapper with the stage name, Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre) who arrives at the remote part of the beach first with a companion. Looking to go off the beaten path, the Cappas are told by the hotel driver (Shyamalan’s tailored cameo) of a beautiful beach they can enjoy. When they are brought there, they are shocked to see the assortment of guests has joined them. Only if they knew this would be the beginning of a quickly deteriorating situation.
They find they cannot leave the beach and, not to mention, almost everyone has an affliction. Ranging from hemophilia, epilepsy, and hypocalcemia. Everything that this assembly was dealing with on the outside gets exacerbated in accelerated time. Not to mention that the children have rapidly grown to teenagers (played by Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, and Eliza Scanlen). After some quick setup, Shyamalan wastes no time plunging these characters in a fight for survival. But how does one escape the clutches of time? Well, really, no one can. The human body and mind were always meant to decay. No matter how many supplements or therapies we take. As the group tries to find a way off the beach, this certainty runs true. Complete with some psychological hysteria and horror-like set pieces.
There are two components of Old where it works. One comes back to the family that starts the story. Guy and Vicky had the intention to alter their family for good because of their marital problems. Now, with all the calamity that’s happening around them, they realize that they have little time to reconcile. All they have is family. Losing time makes you appreciate what you have while you have it. Michael Gioulakis’s cinematography elevates the urgency of the mystery. Sometimes, the audience will only get to see the reaction of the characters. Other times, the usage of light obstructs things in a way to reveal themselves in a more ghastly manner.
Where Old loses itself is its ambitions in trying to broaden its story outside the tranquil confines of the beach. There is a particular reason that every person is chosen to be there. Almost like an overseer watching ants on an ant farm. There’s something to be said about all this taking place on a landmass of foliage, water, and sand. A place of stillness and relaxation can hold a key to things unraveling in a dizzying fashion. It’s the push and pull of nature always in metamorphosis, but it will always be here. The same cannot be said for humans. Old tries to tie this together with a sci-fi concept in mind, but succeeds better, allowing its natural order to take its course.
Within this film, Shyamalan poses the question; is it really about the time you have versus the quality you spend that time? Maybe living forever isn’t the goal as much as living as true as one really can.
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures