[Screen It]


(2021) (Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps) (PG-13)

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Suspense/Thriller: A group of strangers find themselves stuck on a remote beach that's somehow causing them to age at an incredibly fast rate.

Actuary Guy (GAEL GARCIA BERNAL) and his museum curator wife Prisca (VICKY KRIEPS) are aware their marriage is ending, and thus they're committed to giving their kids -- 11-year-old Maddox (ALEXA SWINTON) and 6-year-old Trent (NOLAN RIVER) -- a memorable vacation at a tropical resort.

That includes a trip to a secluded beach that they were promised would be theirs alone for the day. Thus, they're surprised when surgeon Charles (RUFUS SEWELL) and his wife, Chrystal (ABBEY LEE), along with their pre-teen daughter Kara (MIKAYA FISHER) and his mother, Agnes (KATHLEEN CHALFANT), join them for the van ride to the secret spot.

After walking through a short canyon, they arrive at the beach, only to find Brandon, a.k.a. rapper Mid-Sized Sedan (AARON PIERRE), along with psychologist Patricia (NIKKI AMUKA-BIRD) and her nurse husband, Jarin (KEN LEUNG), also there. But Guy and Prisca's concerns about a private excursion are shelved, first when the body of a dead woman washes up.

It then gets worse when they realize that the kids have suddenly aged, with Maddox (THOMASIN MCKENZIE), Trent (ALEX WOLFF), and Kara (ELIZA SCANLEN), now teenagers. Realizing they're all trapped there, the strangers try to learn what's causing all of them to age as well as find a way to get off the beach.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

Many years ago, I had a friend and coworker who told me that everything (related to one's body) starts to fall apart once one hits thirty. More recently, a new neighbor who's in his low sixties claimed the same happened to him once he hit sixty. And I seem to recall that forty and fifty had the same effect on others.

It's almost as if a magical curse waits for the calendar to round another decade of life before suddenly unleashing new pains, debilitating issues, and disease on everyday victims. Of course, much of that lies in the eyes and mind of the beholder who sometimes manage to will such maladies on themselves.

And at other times it's the result of groupthink where someone feels like such problems are happening to them after others "prove" it's already occurred with all of them. Such self-fulfilling prophecies could be at the heart of "Old." Then again, considering the film is from the creatively twisty mind of M. Night Shyamalan, it could be something else entirely including, natch, some sort of twist at the end.

The filmmaker -- known for cinematic offerings such as "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs" among many others -- adapts Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters' novel "Sandcastle" and sets the vast majority of the108-minute offering on a secluded, tropical beach (shot, in real life, in the Dominican Republic).

There, we meet several strangers who've all been driven to the remote setting by a resort worker (none other than Shyamalan doing the Hitchcock style cameo again). Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) are there with their young kids (Alexa Swinton and Nolan River) for one last family outing before separating, while surgeon Charles (Rufus Sewell) is there with his "trophy wife" (Abbey Lee), their pre-teen daughter (Kyle Bailey), and his mother (Kathleen Chalfant).

Present without kids is married couple Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird) and Jarin (Ken Leung), while rapper Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre) hasn't seen his date from the night before since she decided to do the skinny dip thing in the sea (which, as we learned in "Jaws," is never a good idea).

While Bruce the shark doesn't get her, she washes up dead, but that's not the biggest shock of the day. Instead, it's that the three kids have suddenly aged around five years each. So have the adults, but such changes are more subtle in them (being already fully grown and developed), although their laps around the sun start to catch up with all of them.

Unable to leave due to craggy cliffs bordering each side and a canyon pass that leaves anyone trying to return to the drop-off point unconscious and then waking up back on the beach, the various group members try to figure out the whats, hows, and whys of their predicament.

It's an interesting premise, both plot-wise and thematically (from living every day like it's your last to how time seems to speed up the older you get), but one that doesn't seem fully or correctly thought out. A character notes that perhaps their fingernails and hair aren't growing because those aren't involving cells that are alive. But everyone knows that if you don't get a cut or trim for a year, let alone a decade or two or three, you're going to appear quite different from the beginning to the end.

And the kid characters are drawn -- and thus played -- wrong as much of the difference between being a kid and teenager lies as much or more in outside influences than what's occurring under the skin. Thus, a six-year-old in an eleven and then fifteen-year-old body would still act like a first grader, for the most part, especially confused by the sudden influx of hormones and body changes.

The filmmaker seems intent on letting that pass and tries to cover it up to one degree or another by keeping the camera in near-constant motion, albeit sometimes used to reveal the sudden physical alterations. And being a Shyamalan film, you might be distracted trying to figure out the big reveal that's to come, although you'll then be in the same boat as the characters, or at least what's left of them.

And maybe that's the flick's biggest rub in that it feels like any number of horror snuff films where characters are offed in shocking and sometimes grotesque ways until only a handful are left to deal with whatever might be killing them one-by-one.

As a result, you might end up feeling like you've aged more than the time that's passed while sitting through this initially intriguing but ultimately redundant offering. "Old" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed July 21, 2021 / Posted July 23, 2021

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