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On the first pages of “Dino”, a biography of Dean Martin by Nick Tosches from 1992, the author quotes a haunting Italian sentence: “La vecchiaia è carogna”. “Age is carrion.”
In “Old,” the new film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, when families are dropped off on vacation on a secluded beach recommended by a greasy resort manager, we see a trio of vultures climb a tree in the sky.
Not long after that, unusual things happen. Guy and Prisca’s young children (Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps, both excellent, as well as the entire cast) can feel their swimsuits tighten. An epileptic psychologist (Nikki Amuka-Bird) unexpectedly goes without symptoms. The elderly mother of an irritable doctor’s trophy wife has just got up and is dying. A moderately famous rap star (Aaron Pierre), who had come to the beach a few hours earlier, is wandering around confused, with an incurable nosebleed. The body of his companion is discovered in the water, whereupon the doctor (Rufus Sewell) accuses the rapper of murder.
Over time – not too much time, which is crucial in this situation – beachgoers find that they age faster. Half an hour is about a year.
And the beach that ages them doesn’t let them go anymore.
Some vacation. Shyamalan adapted his disturbing story from the graphic novel “Sandcastle” by the French writer Pierre Oscar Lévy and the Swiss illustrator Frederik Peeters. As is so often the case with bandes dessinées produced in France, “Sandcastle” is a blatant existentialist parable. (It is perhaps no coincidence that the book Krieps’ character tries to read on the beach is a double biography of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.) Shyamalan extends the book as one would expect an American filmmaker to do – among other things, and finally provides some kind of explanation that the source material does not provide.
As PG-13, “Old” does not deal, as in the graphic novel, with how rapid aging affects the children in this ensemble in the hormones department when they are teenagers, although pregnancy does occur during the victims’ lives together. in one day. Instead, the film bends over to the considerable fear and anxiety felt and intensified by the often bickering adults. As time is quickening here, wounds heal incredibly quickly. The director uses this for some strangely harrowing knife fights and an improvised operating scene. The terrible potential for bones to break and then instantly reset incorrectly does not go unnoticed.
Shyamalan’s fluid film style, whose outstanding features are almost always a mobile camera and a bag of focus tricks, particularly benefits him here. Sometimes the camera pans back and forth in a ticktock pendulum fashion (got it?) And returns to its starting point to reveal a terrifying change. The way he changes actors with the ages of their characters is seamless. (The work of the filmmaker in the verbal department is not so successful. He calls Pierre’s rap star “Medium-sized limousine”; early on, one character complains to another: “You always think about the future and I don’t feel seen”. “)
If Alter is carrion, it is also, as one Citizen Kane character put it, the only disease that one does not look forward to being cured that gives rise to the film’s finale. While Shyamalan is often cited for his tricky endings, it’s debatable that he doesn’t quite keep landing with this one. He adds a dollop of the much-revered Hollywood commodity hope to the story, and also hands out anti-science propaganda that couldn’t be more unwelcome in the real world at this particular time.
Rated PG-13 for terrible imagery, language, and aging. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes. In theaters.