Skip to main content

Old Ending Explained: M. Night Shyamalan’s Latest Twist Broken Down

Gael Garcia Bernal looks concerned as he ages in Old.

Warning: spoilers for Old are in play, as we’re about to discuss the ending in great detail. If you haven’t seen the film yet, and want to remain unspoiled, don’t move past this barrier that separates you from a beach’s worth of spoilers.

As with pretty much any M. Night Shyamalan movie, Old has an intriguing premise that leads the audience down a winding road to the truth. With a beach that rapidly advances the aging process for all that visit it, the big revelation in Old’s ending is as wild as the concept that sets it all up, and it’s a lot to take in. So if you haven’t seen the movie just yet, Old is playing at a theater near you, showing the story that leads to the ending we’re about to dissect. Let’s head to the lab, and see what the secrets of Old really are, and why this beautiful beach is so dangerous.

Abbey Lee, Thomasin McKenzie, and Vicky Krieps examine the decomposing body in Old.

What Happened At The End Of Old?

After an entire day on the sinister beach that sits at the heart of Old, Trent (Emun Elliott) and Maddox (Embeth Davitz), now both middle aged, escape the prison that claimed the lives of their parents (Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps), as well as everyone else that accompanied them. The only survivors of this idyllic hell, their only means of freedom is swimming out through an underwater passage of potentially dangerous coral. Succeeding in their swim, the former children make their way back to the main resort building, and alert a vacationing police officer to the true purpose of Anamika, Old’s island resort.

It’s a bit of a shame, really, as we learn through the final twists of Old that Trial 73 has yielded a big result! Patricia Carmichael (Nikki Amuka-Bird) received “the right mixture”, and after 16.5 years of tests, a cure for epilepsy is supposedly discovered. Of course, that doesn’t mean the future’s going to be any rosier for Warren & Warren, the big pharma giant that runs the Anamika resort, for their own nefarious purposes.

Rufus Sewell ravaged by rust poisoning in Old.

The Real Purpose Behind Old’s Secretive Resort

Bespoke pharmaceutical tests are the name of the game in Old, as Warren & Warren has run 72 trials at the Anamika resort by time the Capa family embarks on their vacation experience. The real purpose of the resort is, on top of offering a fun and relaxing vacation on the surface, to run lucrative drug trials on an accelerated schedule. Thanks to the mysterious beach, which distorts time through a combination of magnetism and ancient minerals that make up the jungle/cliffs that separate Old’s beach from the resort proper, time and biology move a lot faster.

Thanks to that advantage, pharmaceutical trials that would have taken years to approve, execute, and refine become super fast exercises with maximum results. From the moment the Capa family arrived at Old’s Anamika resort, the parents were offered customized cocktails based on their stored preferences. Those cocktails were actually drug formulas cooked up for both Guy and Prisca, based on some very important information obtained from when Prisca applied for their vacation experience. And they weren’t the only ones on the beach that were selected through such a process.

Powered by RedCircle

Aaron Pierre looks down in horror on the beach in Old.

How Old’s Cast Of Characters Were Selected For The Trials

All of the families on Old’s central beach have something in common: a member of their ranks already has a life threatening illness, or they have the genetic potential for one to present itself. It’s revealed to us that Prisca had a benign tumor in her stomach, which we eventually see expand at an exponential rate, and eventually removed once it becomes abnormally large. That’s the least of the party’s problems, as some other medical conditions are also on the menu for medical testing.

Patricia Carmichael is another one of the key test subjects, as she’s an epileptic; plus Crystal (Abbey Lee) and Charles (Rufus Sewell) are selected due to their hypocalcemia and schizophrenia, respectively. Even Mid-Size Sedan (Aaron Pierre) is selected, due to his bouts of hemophilia. Warren and Warren know that their vacationers are afflicted by certain conditions, which then allows them to brew up a special mixture for them to test on a subject that’s about to age a whole lifetime in a day. By time a trial in Old’s world has ended, it’s only a day’s work that yields an entire life’s worth of data, and some hard PG-13 body horror.

Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps look perplexed on the beach in Old.

Why Old’s Ending Differs From The Original Graphic Novel

Old bases its story off of the graphic novel Sandcastle, which plays things a bit more vague when it comes to the final resolution of the story. The ending of the source material sees the possibility of medical trials hinted at throughout, but never really confirmed. However, when he set out to adapt Old’s story, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan interpreted those clues, and came to the conclusion that Sandcastle seemed to build its story around. It also gives Trent and Maddox a new fate than was written in Pierre Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeter’s original text.

In Sandcastle, Trent and Maddox actually die, and the only survivor of the story is the baby born from Trent and Kara’s (Eliza Scanlen) tryst on the beach. However, Old opts to make a huge swap, and kills off the unnamed child early in its lifespan. Trent and Maddox are the only two that survive the beach, and thanks to a clue from Trent’s young friend Idlib (Kailen Jude), the coral passage allows the now older Capa children to escape any further ravages of time.

Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff huddling for safety in the cave in Old.

What Happens Next With Trent And Maddox?

The final shots of Old see the adult versions of Trent and Maddox flying around in a helicopter with law enforcement officials, discussing their next steps. While physically adults, the young Capas are still mentally children. Thankfully, they have an aunt they can live with, but there’s a lot of explaining that’ll need to be done. While hopeful at its core, Old is a bittersweet story about making peace with the time you have in life.

Even if the Capa family never made it to the beaches to Anamika, there was a painful separation and possible death in their future. But as Guy and Prisca make peace in their final moments together, it makes the time robbed from them all the more valuable, and a bit sweeter than a prolonged life of anger and spite. With Trent and Maddox older, and a little wiser, the rest of their lives will forever be changed by what they went through.

Old is something that really does have to be seen to be believed, and understood. So if you’ve read through this rundown, and somehow haven’t seen Old, there’s still plenty of room to let M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film was over you. Or, should you be ready to see something else that may be in the same neighborhood, you can check out some M. Night Shyamalan movies streaming on a digital platform near you, as well as get a heads up on what else is scheduled as part of 2021’s new movie releases.

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.