Old, the latest mind-bender from mad genius M. Night Shyamalan, is here – and it’s going to be polarizing. Like so many other Shyamalan movies, Old is loaded with twists, turns, and big weird secrets. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know the basic gist of the movie: vacationers get stuck on a beach and find themselves rapidly aging.
So what’s the deal? Does Old actually give us answers as to all the strange stuff going on here? Yes, it does! And I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing – there’s a part of me that thinks Shyamalan would’ve had a more successful movie if he had left some things more ambiguous. But that’s not what happened here. With that in mind, let’s take a dive into the Old ending and try to explain just what the deal is.
Major spoilers for Old follow.
The Perfect Getaway
Old introduces us to a group of characters on a tropical vacation at the exclusive Anamika Resort. Side-note: Anamkia is also the name of a 1973 Hindi film about a man who finds a woman lying passed out in the road; when she regains consciousness, she claims she’s his wife – this has nothing to do with the movie itself, but it’s just a fun bit of trivia from me, to you.
There’s married couple Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and their kids Trent (initially played by Nolan River) and Maddox (initially played by Alexa Swinton). Then there’s doctor Charles (Rufus Sewell), his younger wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee), and their child Kara (initially played by Kyle Bailey). Along with them is Charles’ mother Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant). Finally, there’s married couple Jarin (Ken Leung) and Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird).
After arriving at Anamkia, the characters relax and take in some sun. Trent befriends another kid, the consistently nervous Idlib (Kailen Jude), nephew of the resort’s manager (Gustaf Hammarsten). The manager tells Guy and Prisca about a private beach, and the couple and their children set out for it. They assume they’re going to be the only people there – but they’re not. Charles, Chrystal, Kara, Agnes, Jarin, and Patricia all come along as well. Before they leave, though, Idlib hands Trent a folded-up note – which Trent doesn’t bother to read. Hmm, I wonder if that’ll come up at some point later in the film!
The beach, which is said to be by a nature preserve, is truly secluded – tucked away behind some rocky cliffs. You wouldn’t even know it was there unless you were specifically looking for it. Once on the beach, the characters notice someone else – a famous rapper named Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre). Mr. Mid-Sized is sitting alone by himself with a bloody nose, and in true creepy movie fashion, he doesn’t acknowledge anyone.
All is going seemingly well – at first. Guy also points out a coral reef just off the shore, and like that note Idlib gave Trent, you would probably remember that for later. Things go from good to bad when Trent discovers a woman’s dead body floating in a cove. In a prologue, we saw the dead woman come to the beach with Mid-Sized Sedan, and Charles immediately assumes that the rapper must’ve murdered her. During these accusations, it starts to become clear that Charles is a tad unhinged.
When the characters attempt to leave the beach to get some help they make a shocking discovery: they can’t escape. Any attempt to leave causes people to first have massive headaches and then blackout. When they wake up again they’re right back on the beach. All of this is pretty distressing on its own, but then the real spooky shit starts to happen. The children all suddenly begin to age rapidly. Six-year-old Trent is suddenly about 11 (and now played by Luca Faustino Rodriguez); 11-year-old Maddox is now 16 (played by Thomasin McKenzie); and Kara, who, like Trent, was six when we first met her, is also now 11 (and played by Mikaya Fisher).
The Clock is Ticking
With these bizarre developments, the adults are understandably freaked out (the kids seem oddly okay with all of this). Things quickly get worse. The elderly Agnes suddenly dies, and the dead body of Mid-Sized Sedan’s lady friend rapidly decomposes. In all the ensuing panic it comes to light that a lot of the people on the beach have certain medical conditions: Prisca has a stomach tumor; Patricia is an epileptic; Mid-Sized Sedan is a hemophiliac; Chrystal has hypocalcemia; and Charles suffers from schizophrenia.
Despite Charles’ unstable state, he’s drafted into performing an operation on Prisca when her tumor suddenly swells and grows. Charles obliges and removes the tumor – and the incision he made on Prisca’s stomach heals almost immediately. Meanwhile, Trent and Kara have gotten even older, aging into teenagers (now played by Alex Wolff and Eliza Scanlen). This triggers some horny hormones in the rapid-agers, and Trent and Kara end up having sex in a tent. Afterward, Kara almost instantly becomes pregnant, with the baby growing rapidly inside her. The baby grows so much, in fact, that Kara ends up delivering it – only to have the baby die in childbirth.
Distraught, Kara attempts an escape by climbing the rocks that surround the beach. She almost makes it to the top but passes out, at which point she falls to the ground – and to her death. Charles’ schizophrenic state worsens, and in a fit of rage, he murders Mid-Sized Sedan. Jarin decides to try to swim for help, but – as you might have guessed – he doesn’t make it and his dead body eventually washes back up on shore. Patricia has a massive epileptic fit that kills her. And Chrystal ends up breaking a bunch of bones, only to have them heal at wrong angles. She eventually dies, too.
By nightfall, Guy and Prisca have aged into elderly people. Charles, completely out of his damn mind now, attacks them. Prisca ends up slashing him with a rusty knife which causes an infection that spreads rapidly within Charles, killing him.
Get Well Soon
By the next morning, Guy and Prisca are both dead and Trent and Maddox are even older, with Trent now played by Emun Elliott (who looks so much like Alex Wolff that I thought it was just Wolff with make-up on at first) and Maddox played by Embeth Davidtz. The siblings assume they’re doomed, but they don’t want to give up trying to escape just yet. Trent and Maddox also realize they’re being watched by a resort employee up on the top of the cliffs (that someone is actually played by M. Night Shyamalan himself, who never misses an opportunity for an extended cameo).
It’s at this point that the note Idlib gave Trent comes back, Chekhov’s gun-style. The note says that Idlib’s uncle, the resort manager, “hates” the coral reef that you probably already forgot about. The siblings reason that there’s some means of escape through the coral, and set out to swim through it. However, once underwater, Maddox’s shirt gets caught on a bit of coral. Trent tries to rescue her to no avail, and it looks like the brother and sister are about to drown.
Here, Old cuts back to the resort where we find out what’s been going on. The folks at Anamika are actually conducting experiments with drugs and pharmaceuticals. At some point (this is all very vague) someone discovered the beach and its rapid aging properties on humans and proceeded to turn it into a kind of giant laboratory. The resort then lures people with various illnesses and sets up them to be unwitting trial subjects. The rapid aging enables the researchers at Anamkia to complete a lifetime of drug trials in a single day. I just want to use this opportunity to point out that this is stupid as hell, and I really wish Shyamalan had left well enough alone. Oh well!
In true Scooby-Doo fashion, the shady researchers at Anamkia would’ve gotten away with it all if it weren’t for those meddling (former) kids! Because as it turns out, Trent and Maddox are alive – and they managed to escape the beach through the coral. They proceed to approach a vacationing cop at the resort and spill the beans. Instead of immediately assuming these two people are out of their fucking minds for telling such a wild story, the cop checks into things, and soon enough, the Anamkia manager and all his staff are being arrested while Maddox and Trent reveal to the world what happened to them and the others on the beach. All’s well that ends well. Except most of the characters are dead and Trent and Maddox are children trapped in the bodies of much older people.
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