Warning: Spoilers for Old and the graphic novel Sandcastle are in play here. If you’re looking to avoid details from either, you’ve been warned.
It’s not often that M. Night Shyamalan adapts the work of another author to the screen. The writer/director’s latest film Old is one of those rare adaptations, as the film gets its concept from Frederik Peeters and Pierre Oscar Lévy’s graphic novel Sandcastle. Of course, in the leap from the page to the screen, there’s bound to be changes in the name of making the story more cinematic. And in the case of Old, the ending differs from the source in one gigantic way: it gives a concrete answer to why the Capa family, and the rest of the beachgoers, were on the beach in the first place.
Speaking with M. Night Shyamalan during our interview covering Old, it came time to discuss one of the often examined subjects of the filmmaker’s filmography: the ending. Not to be outdone by films like The Sixth Sense or even The Village, Old has a finale that lays down a pretty sinister explanation for what happened to its impressive cast, and why. But the big difference between source and screen is that Sandcastle doesn’t have the definitive explanation that the film does. Shyamalan explained to me where his ending came from, as follows:
The ending for the movie came from [Sandcastle], at least my interpretation of a couple of the moments in the middle of the graphic novel where they insinuate something mysterious … there’s something mysterious there, and this was my explanation of those frames [and] what was going on there.
Fair warning, I’m going to talk briefly about what Old’s ending entails, but I won’t go too far on the beach. That’s what ending explained write ups are for, and we’ll have one of those up for you to enjoy soon. Consider this your last call to punch out, and enjoy Old with fresh eyes.
So in Sandcastle and Old, Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, and the rest of the impressive cast of actors are suckered into taking a trip to the beach that rapidly ages them. And the short, short version of why, at least according to Old, is bespoke pharmaceutical trials. But while the movie spends the last couple of minutes in the third act explaining this theory, and all the clues that were dropped throughout the film, the graphic novel only hints at this fate.
That ending wasn’t a last minute change either, which is something important to mention in light of those recent discussions about how Old allegedly didn’t have an ending until just recently. Apparently, that wasn’t exactly the truth, as M. Night Shyamalan dismissed that report quite quickly. That doesn’t mean that Old wasn’t still being worked on until the last possible moment though. Shyamalan thinks that's probably where those whispers came from, which he addressed thusly:
The second part you’re talking about doesn’t resonate. It’s always been this ending. I just finished the movie, maybe that’s what they’re talking about. We spent the last month with sound effects, and visual effects, and all that stuff.
While Old’s ending may throw audiences for a loop, it’s not a sharp left turn that wasn’t built in every step of the way, nor was it hidden from Universal execs like the mid-credits stinger to Split was. Though that’s not going to stop moviegoers from debating whether they totally buy M. Night Shyamalan’s finale or not, especially if they’ve read Sandcastle ahead of time. Then again, that’s just another reason why Shyamalan’s career as a storyteller has endured over 20 years, as he knows how to get a crowd talking. It may not be a beach with rapidly aging properties, but Old is definitely a film where there’s a line drawn in the sand, and you’re either with it or not.
Discover which side you fall onto, as Old is currently showing in theaters. And if you’re looking for another trip to somewhere at the movies, head over to our 2021 release schedule, and see what’s coming down the line. Last, but not least, don’t forget to listen to the latest episode of our own ReelBlend podcast, as our hosts got to speak with M. Night Shyamalan in an extended conversation about Old, among other works from his storied career.