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‘Old’ Is Proof Not Every Adaptation Has To Be A Movie Adaptation – Review

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Old is the thing that holds it back. Based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters and adapted for the big screen by M. Night Shyamalan, Old is a science fiction tale about an island utopia that isn’t all that utopic. Some might say the whole utopia-turned-dystopia is overplayed, and it probably is, but it’s popular for a reason. It keeps us on the edge of our seats and twists everything humanity craves and savors into a small, inescapable hell.

Old follows a family and some strangers on a vacation resort’s beach. The idyllic location turns into a nightmare as the vacationers realize that the island speeds up aging. This premise is simple enough and leaves room for plenty of possibilities, which is the beauty of the genre. However, the film shuts down these possibilities as soon as you conceive of them.

Old - Still
Thomasin McKenzie as Maddox (left) and Alex Wolff as Trent (right). Poor kids. (Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Shyamalan’s direction incorporates these neat turns and zooms, but they rarely focus on what’s going on or what seems important. Instead, we’re left wondering what’s happening off-camera and how what’s happening on camera relates to it. Before the story can entertain these questions, the camera cuts to something else, creating even more confusion.

Shyamalan’s dialogue conveniently does all the thinking and explaining for us. All the adult characters are professionals in their own fields and know what they’re talking about. This can definitely be helpful, but their expertise is used only to discredit any theories you may have about the island all too soon or give you their theory and explain why it’s right. Beyond that, it’s unrealistic and uncanny. Thank you, Mr. Doctor character, for explaining your degree and how it can help move the scene forward.

These elements don’t break the movie, they break the storytelling. The source material, Sandcastle, is 112 pages. Stretching that material into two hours of film was undoubtedly hard, but maybe it shouldn’t have been done in the first place. A Ray Bradbury tale like this works best as a fun episode of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror.

Nolan River as Young Trent. Talk about great casting. (Courtesy of Universal Pictures)

The narrative issues shouldn’t entirely discourage you from enjoying it though. Old has a very interesting twist with a message that people of all ages can relate to. On top of this, it has moments of pure thrill and heart in that very specific way only M. Night Shyamalan can do. With Old, Shyamalan discovers another truth about the human soul and why it should be cherished.

Old is a product of its genre, more specifically Shyamalan’s own genre filmmaking. The beautiful beach, the characters that easily fall into tropes, and the eerie incidents blend well to make for a treat for any fan of the classic science fiction that asks a simple question, What if…? and goes down the rabbit hole from there.

Rating: 5/10


Old opens in theaters on July 23.

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