In the opening pages of “Dino,” a 1992 biography of Dean Martin by Nick Toshes, the author cites a haunting Italian phrase: “La vecchia e carogna.” “Old age is carrion.”
When a few vacationing families gather on a secluded beach recommended by a sly resort manager in the new film “Old,” written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, we watch a trio of vultures take to the sky on top of a tree. Let’s see.
Shortly after that, unusual things start to happen. Guy and Prisca’s little ones (Gael García Bernal and Vicky Cripps, both fabulous, as is the entire cast) feel their bathing suits tightening up. An epileptic psychologist (Nikki Amuka-Bird) unexpectedly finds herself without symptoms. Trophy’s elderly mother, the wife of a techie doctor, just wakes up and dies. A normally famous rap star (Aaron Pierre), who hit the beach a few hours ago, wanders around with an incurable nosebleed. The body of his female partner is found in the water, leading the doctor (Rufus Sewell) to accuse the rapper of murder.
In time – not a lot of time, because as it happens, it’s of the essence in this situation – beach-goers find out they’re getting old at an accelerated rate. One half hour is roughly equal to one year.
And the beach that’s aging them won’t let them go.
some vacation. Shyamalan adapted his disturbing story from the graphic novel “Sandcastle” by French writer Pierre Oscar Lévy and Swiss painter Frederic Peters. As is often the case with the French-made Bandes Dessinies, “Sandcastle” is an existentialist parable. (It’s probably no coincidence that Cripps’ character attempts to read on the beach, a dual biography of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.) Shyamalan expands on the book the way an American filmmaker would. Expects from – things amongst others, ultimately offering a kind of explanation that the source material does not.
Being PG-13, “Old” doesn’t take into account, as the graphic novel does, how rapidly this ensemble’s once in adolescence affects the children of this ensemble in the hormonal department, though the victims’ shared lives. One pregnancy occurs during – in one day. Instead, the film evokes a sense of considerable anxiety and fear, and is felt by adults who repeatedly fight. Because time is quick here, wounds heal incredibly quickly. The director uses it for some strangely disturbing knife fights and an impromptu surgery scene. The terrifying prospect of bones breaking, then immediately resetting themselves the wrong way, goes unnoticed.
Shyamalan’s fluid filmmaking style, whose outstanding features are an almost always moving camera and a bag of focus tricks, serves him particularly well here. Sometimes the camera will pan back and forth in tiktok pendulum fashion (get it?) and return to its starting point to reveal an awesome transformation. The way he transforms his actors as his characters age is effortless. (The filmmaker’s work in the verbal department is not so laudable. He names Pierre’s rap star a “mid-size sedan”; one character initially complains to the other, “You’re always thinking about the future. , and it doesn’t make me feel.”)
If aging is carrion, it is also, as one “Citizen Kane” character put it, a disease you’re not eager to cure, which provides the inspiration for the film’s finale. While Shyamalan is often cited for his hard end, it’s arguable that he doesn’t quite keep the landing with this one. He adds to the story that much-anticipated Hollywood item, a dollop of hope, and also some anti-science propaganda that couldn’t be more unwelcome at this particular time in the real world.
Rated PG-13 for awesome imagery, language and aging. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes. in Theaters.