Old is a Lot of the Same Old From M. Night

Some time ago, Richard Price remarked that when writing novels he felt like an artist – completely unencumbered by the form and getting lost in the thoughts of a person he didn’t always agree with – whereas when writing a screenplay – where so much depended on another medium where he had considerably less control and everything was about movement, he felt more like a craftsman – still creating but constantly checking if all his parts were up to scale. When ideas occur to writers and they begin to flesh their stories into being, so much depends on whether they make the right call – if something makes for a good movie or novel – if it’s visually striking enough to make it a graphic novel – or whether the character perspectives will be able to keep the pacing constantly moving as a film. 

All while watching M. Night Shyamalan’s latest foray OLD, I kept thinking to myself how much I wanted to read the graphic novel by Frederick Peeters and Pierre Oscar Levy that inspired this movie, where the episodes between characters are divided by panels and the strange beach where the movie takes place feels more mysterious – with its forbidden caverns both underwater and above ground, and perhaps even giving more of an opportunity for the storylines to overlap more efficiently before tying them all together. The premise itself seems to bind together elements of realism and fantasy – as it tries on one hand to be a gritty film where everything takes place in one setting and happens in real-time (over the course of just a few days that seem like years) while incorporating a number of fantastic elements – a paradise-like vacation cove where people age rapidly (although inconsistently), then it’s all over as Mr. Shyamalan’s surprise twist ending is revealed before we can firmly plant our feet in either world. 

The film – adapted from a graphic novel called Sandcastle, takes place at what seems like a beach paradise resort – even if not a whole lot of it is really a resort – where strange geological occurrences – a mountain barricade and organic reefs in the water – manage to accelerate the process of aging. Cuts heal in a matter of seconds – regardless of how deep – which can make impromptu life-saving surgery as difficult as fighting. Guy Cappa – an insurance statistician who has arrived here with his wife and kids, doesn’t quite understand what’s happening until his six-year-old son ages a decade in a matter of hours – beyond his recognition.

 Oh, and gets a bit friendlier than he should with one of the local girls – who in a matter of minutes is five months pregnant. These episodes happen and leave the audience unsure about whether to laugh or cringe – particularly as Guy and his wife Maddox never really age all that much – nor do their neighbors from the hotel who have come here – one a psychiatrist who suffers from grand mal seizures and would probably be problematic as a test subject since it’s hard to determine how often she’d need to take her medication while sitting on a beach where years slip by in hours. I can believe that there’s a hidden realm on Earth where some scientific explanation suffices for why time speeds up. I can also believe there’s a corporation that would acquire it secretly and use it for morally questionable pharmaceutical research, and I can even believe that there’s a means to escape in secret – but a largely uneventful and anti-climactic trial at the end that clears everything up with no clear cut heroes? That’s just fantasy.



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