The last three years have aged us all rapidly, which makes m. night shyamalan’s 2021 sci-fi thriller, old, aka the movie about the beach that makes you old, particularly relatable.
If you didn’t get a chance to see the movie in theaters last year, the good news is that Old is streaming on HBO Max now, free to anyone with a subscription. And sure, the twitter memes were a lot of fun, but this twisted sci-fi horror story was a really riveting watch. The concept alone, which is based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters, is enough to get you hooked. and shyamalan expertly builds on that concept, finding new and visually stunning ways to unsettle his audience while staying true to the story.
It’s compelling, engrossing, and maybe a little silly, but, as a bonus, it comes with a satisfying ending that actually makes sense, if you’re paying attention. but if you weren’t, don’t worry, because the decider is here to help you. Read on for the plot summary above and explanation of the ending above.
what is the m. night shyamalan old movie about? old plot summary:
The yesteryear premise is simple: a group of families on vacation at a resort are escorted to a private beach and find themselves trapped there, and aging rapidly. (aka, the beach that makes you old).
The protagonists are Guy and Prisca Cappa (Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps), who hope that this family vacation will soften the blow to their two young children, Maddox and Trent, who are getting divorced. when they arrive at the hotel, guy and prisca are greeted with complimentary drinks, which they happily drink. Maddox and Trent befriend Idlib, the resort manager’s nephew. trent and idlib together form a code language and use it to pass secret messages to each other. (remember this for later!)
A tour guide convinces the family to take a field trip to a special private beach. They are joined by three other parties: a surgeon named Charles (Rufus Sewell), his vain wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee), his little daughter Kara, and Charles’s mother Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant); husband and wife Jarin and Patricia Carmichael (Ken Leung and Nikki Amuka-Bird), and a rapper who calls himself Midsize Sedan (Aaron Pierre). guests are a little confused as to why the guide is packing an obscene amount of food for their day trip to the beach, but they let it slide.
After discovering a stranded body, it becomes clear that no one can leave the beach. if they try to go back the way they came, they get a blackout-inducing pressure head and are forced to turn back. then, suddenly, the children are no longer children, but adolescents. As everyone ages rapidly, it is clear that most adults have underlying medical problems. Prisca quickly grows a huge tumor in her stomach, which Charles removes. Charles’s behavior is increasingly erratic and paranoid, and he is revealed to be schizophrenic. Patricia dies of an epileptic fit and Chrystal, in a horrible death scene, she dies because her bones break due to hypocalcaemia.
eventually, the only people left alive are maddox and trent, who are now middle-aged (now played by embeth davidtz and emun elliot).
what is the previous ending explained?
trent realizes that he still has an idlib message that he never decrypted. when she decodes it, she says “my uncle doesn’t like coral”.
trent and maddox swim towards the coral and discover an underwater tunnel and swim through it. We then move on to the scientist (played by Shyamalan himself) who has been watching people on the beach all this time. when trent and maddox fail to resurface, the scientist calls his superior to report that they both drowned. he assures them that there is no way they made it through the coral and that “trial 73” is complete.
packs up his recording equipment and heads back to a lab. we see monitors that track things like heart disease, epilepsy, tuberculosis, and more. Then we see scientists injecting drugs into those cocktail glasses that Guy and Prisca were given at the beginning of the movie.
The hotel manager gives a speech to the scientists about how many lives they’ve saved, being able to test new drugs on patients quickly by sending them to the beach, and reducing human trial time from decades to just a couple of days. This trial was a success, because Patricia’s medication prevented her from having a seizure for 8 hours, that is, 16 years of beach time. it is revealed that scientists don’t know why this beach exists, only that this pharmaceutical company stumbled upon it and has been luring chronically ill people into unethical medical trials ever since.
Back at the hotel, a drenched trent cappa walks up to a man he knew as a child, whom he remembers is a police officer. he hands her evidence from the beach: a notebook he found from a previous subject, describing everything that had happened and the people he was with. The policeman calls the station on him and reads him the names from the notebook, all of whom were reported missing.
Trent and Maddox Cappa loudly announce what happened to them in the hotel lobby. Then we flash back to the moment Trent and Maddox got trapped in the underwater tunnel, and we see that they were able to briefly resurface for air and then swim the rest of the way, after the scientist had left his lookout. Trent and Maddox are flown to the airport in a helicopter, where they will be reunited with their aunt and live out the rest of their lives skipping four decades of her life. It’s not exactly a happy ending, but at least now they can prevent anyone else from going to the beach that makes you old.
It’s never explained why the beach makes you age, just that it does. it is a freak of nature. just accept it!