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Review: “Old” by M. Night Shyamalan – How to die happily (review & stream)

The review contains spoilers

“I just need a little more time,” the young woman says to the young man, she has to be clear about her feelings. Classic teenage conversation. There is no time left. The girl aged within a few hours; she is no longer eight but 14 years old. If the pace continues, she succumbs to old age the next morning.

A group of vacationers is led by the managers of a subtropical beach resort to a secluded beach, where they are supposed to spend a nice afternoon. But they are no longer picked up from there and they cannot leave their bay. If you want to cross the cave leading to the beach in the other direction, you pass out and wake up again in the sand (like a video game character being transported back to the first level). Then the tourists notice new wrinkles on their faces, and the six-year-old’s shorts suddenly become too tight because he shoots up. A little later an old lady died of cardiac arrest; a newborn baby dies instantly because it lacks the strength to age rapidly; children hit puberty immediately and become unpredictable. Panic and quarrels arise within the three families.

“Old” is an adaptation of the graphic novel “Sandcastle” (2010) by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters. Your story comes without an explanation of the supernatural phenomenon, all characters grow old and die. The corpses are washed away by the waves, as are the sandcastles they built. Director M. Night Shyamalan, who for the first time used a drawn story as a template for a film, has thought of a new ending, one that we don’t need to spoil. It is advertised as a twist (and Shyamalan is still considered the king of the twisters 22 years after “The Sixth Sense”). It’s not a twist. That a secret society seems to use the power slumbering in the caves for its own purposes is part of the open story.

Shyamalan does not specialize in philosophical digressions, but for his first film, which was not shot in Philadelphia or the dark forests of Pennsylvania, he pondered a few questions under the Dominican Republic sun. Which memories and experiences make a life a fulfilled life? Even under such nightmarish conditions, can’t it mean at least a little luck to see one’s own children as adults? How important is our youth and our beauty to us? How do we slow down – and don’t beach holidays achieve the opposite, don’t they make things worse because the head-to-head cinema really starts when you’re lying around?

Dementia as a gift

A fitness freak bikini mom (Abbey Lee) hides in the cave because she can’t stand her wrinkles. The main character is a man, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, who probably doesn’t have the simple role name “Guy” by chance. He is a pushover, the only one who has no survivalist ideas in an emergency, and his wife Prisca (Vicky Krieps) is considering a divorce because she is having an affair. At the end of the day, at the end of his shortened life, Guy sits by the beach campfire and suffers from senile dementia. He no longer knows what happened in the first place, why he is sitting in the sand, how it ended up there. Except that he loves his wife, who only told him an hour ago about the other man in her life. Dementia is a gift for him.

Guy is an insurance broker, a boring guy with two left hands, but the other vacationers just fit too well into this beach scenario to not be able to accuse director Shyamalan of a now common accusation: some of his story twists seem constructed and are full of logic holes. Among the tourists there is a doctor (Rufus Sewell), he will perform an operation in the sand – assisted by all others with hair-raising self-evident – operation without anesthesia and with a pocket knife, in which a coconut-sized tumor will be removed. A psychologist is at his side to de-escalate conflicts, and a nurse is always available for prudent advice when empathy should be more important than medical skills. The carer Jarin plays Ken Leung, who embodied a PSI-gifted researcher in “Lost”, and there are some parallels to JJ Abram’s mystery series, which is also set in an archipelago. The “Lost” island knows how to cure illnesses, and in “Old” an epileptic feels that she’s been doing better than worse since her stay on the enchanted beach.

Not only do all of these people age quickly, they are so quick to grasp that they spot the riddles of the bay early and know how to define their life expectancy in minutes. Everyone thinks out loud. Everything is quickly verbalized for us viewers. The best scripts are still those whose story is revealed through action – not through lectures.

Some secrets remain unexplained, maybe that’s a good thing. At least one riddle that haunted the doctor can be googled: the name of the film in which Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson can be seen together.


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