M Night Shyamalan is back in cinemas after the successful comeback with The Visit and Glass. This time the famed director takes inspiration from the graphic novel Sandcastles written by Pierre-Oscar Levy and Frederick Peeters. While the story does deliver an intriguing premise, only Shyamalan could pull it off with twists and turns and surprises that will keep you guessing till the very end. This is all complimented by incredibly beautiful location filming and a well rounded and diverse cast that deliver solid performances helping to immerse you into this world and seemingly impossible situation.
The story revolves around a family who travel to a luxury resort on a secluded island. The father Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and mother Prisca (Vicky Krieps) are dealing with their possibly separation and their children Trent (Nolan River) and Maddox (Alexa Swinton) hold each other while their parents scream at each other. The family are invited by the resort host to a private beach that only the most exclusive and special people are told about. They end up on a bus with another family and a whole army of food to take on their day trip. Along for the ride is Dr Charles (Rufus Swell) his wife Crystal (Abbey Lee) and daughter Kara (Mikaya Fisher) along with childless couple Jarin (Ken Leung) and Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird). While the groups are enjoying their day, they find a solitary man on the beach, a rapper named Mid Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre) who suffers from a nose that won’t stop bleeding and a dead body washes up on the shore.
The beach is simply stunning, the reveal as they walk out of the rock cave and the beautiful blue sky and crystal clear water sets the idyllic resort vacation these families seem to sorely need. It is not until things take a turn that they start to notice just how not calm this place is. The waves crash violently against the rocks, there are no fish or any kind of marine life in the water. As the groups decide they need to leave to find help, they can’t walk back out through the cave, they become disorientated and end up back on the beach. While they are trying to figure out this dilemma, the kids also start aging rapidly, morphing into pre-teens just a few hours into their stay at the beach and then into teenagers just a few hours later. While all of this is happening the adults are moving growing into their twilight years suffering from loss of hearing, sight and the world’s largest tumour. The story becomes how do these people get off this beach before they pass away.
The premise itself is incredibly fascinating, Shyamalan does a fantastic job of creating confusion when things start unravelling and takes us along for the ride in a swirling world of a claustrophobic beach, deadly caves and the impending death of anyone at any second. The tension really builds fast and having such a strong circle of talented actors really helps immerse viewers into what is happening. The movie definitely feels like a mystery but there is a splash of horror (calcium deficiency!) added in that pushes the M rating to its limit.
The film does tend to leave its explanations to the very last minute and while I would love to explore the ending more and find out more about this resort and what they are doing there, sometimes a little unsolved mystery is the best kind of all. While awarding the movie 3 stars, I feel like you will either love it or hate it depending on how well you connect with the story of time and ageing. The ending did wrap up the story, I did however feel like it could have had an extra 10-15 minutes fleshing everything out spectacularly.
Shyamalan is back doing what he does best, giving us weird and wonderful stories that stay with us long after we leave the cinema. This will definitely keep your tongues wagging discussing what if and the many variations or possibilities that arise from this story.
Old is playing in cinemas now.