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Review: ‘Old’ is Proof that Some Mysteries are Better Left Unsolved

July 23, 2021Ben MK

What if you suddenly aged an entire lifetime within the span of a mere day? That's the terrifying scenario the characters in Old find themselves in, when a dream tropical vacation turns into a surreal nightmare after a visit to a mysterious and secluded beach. But will this latest twisty-turny mystery from the master of twists and turns himself, M. Night Shyamalan, live up to the high expectations set by his recently completed Eastrail 177 Trilogy — or does it spell the end of his comeback streak?

Based on the French graphic novel Sandcastle, the film follows Guy and Prisca Capa (Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps) and their two kids, 6-year-old Trent (Nolan River) and 11-year-old Maddox (Alexa Swinton), as they arrive at the Anamika Resort in search of rest, relaxation and scenic ocean views. But when the resort's manager (Gustaf Hammarsten) invites them to spend the day at a private beach, they soon begin to realize that this island paradise may not be all that it appears. Inexplicably, the Capas — along with a surgeon named Charles (Rufus Sewell), his elderly mother Agnes (Kathleen Chalfont), his bikini-clad wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee), their 6-year-old daughter Kara (Kylie Begley), and husband and wife Jarin and Patricia (Ken Leung and Nikki Amuka-Bird) — begin aging one year for every half hour they spend on the beach. And to make matters worse, every attempt to leave this sand-and-sun Twilight Zone ends with them blacking out and waking up right back where they started.

With the premise firmly established, Shyamalan begins to show viewers the perplexing implications that this unnaturally accelerated timeline has on this unlucky group of unwitting vacationers. A dead body that washes up onshore is reduced to skeletal remains in a matter of hours; wounds heal themselves almost as quickly as they're inflicted; and an unexpected pregnancy, from conception to childbirth, runs its course faster than it takes for a pizza to show up on your doorstep after placing the order. But perhaps the most dire complication of all appears to be the heightened progression of the characters' various medical conditions, with Prisca's small tumor growing into a large bulge that protrudes from her abdomen, Charles' dementia quickly making him a violent threat to everyone around him, and Chrystal's calcium deficiency causing her bones to become deformed and brittle.

Of course, it's not just the adults who experience the otherworldly effects of this unconventional prison. Trent, Maddox and Kara all reach young adulthood by the time the afternoon rolls around (eventually played by Jumanji's Alex Wolff, Jojo Rabbit's Thomasin McKenzie and Little Women's Eliza Scanlen, respectively), their developing hormones wreaking havoc with their emotions. Meanwhile, even Charles and Chrystal's dog keels over (after all, one canine year is equivalent to approximately seven human years). And then there's the potentially suspicious case of Brendan (Aaron Pierre), a rapper who goes by the stage name Mid-Sized Sedan, whom the others encounter on the beach shortly after their arrival. Could he somehow be connected to all of these unexplained goings-on?

Moviegoers who appreciate a certain degree of closure need not worry, for all will be revealed by the time the credits start to roll. Yet, ironically, the film's neat and tidy ending is arguably its most glaring flaw. After all, there's something to be said about ambiguity and leaving things open for the audience interpretation. Old, in stark contrast, is proof that some mysteries are better left unsolved.

Old releases July 23rd, 2021 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for strong violence, disturbing images, suggestive content, partial nudity and brief strong language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 48 min.

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