NEW YORK (CNS) — A day at the beach is no day at the beach in the thriller “Old” (Universal).

Though it boasts an intriguing set-up and a reasonably credible conclusion, the long middle portion of writer-director M. Night Shyamalan’s film is, by turns, tedious and chaotic. Some of the diffuse developments that take place as it lurches along, moreover, make this dark fantasy inappropriate for youngsters.

As they begin a holiday in the tropics, quarreling couple Guy (Gael García Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps) try to conceal from their kids, 6-year-old Trent (Nolan River) and his older sister, Maddox (Alexa Swinton), that they’re on the verge of divorcing. There also are hints in the dialogue that the family is facing a medical challenge as well as marital problems.


Anxious for diversion, the quartet takes up the suggestion of their hotel’s unnamed manager (Gustaf Hammarsten) that they spend the day at a secluded strand nearby. They’re joined on this excursion by an ensemble of other guests from the resort, including troubled physician Charles (Rufus Sewell) and his good-looking ditz of a wife, Chrystal (Abbey Lee).

As apparently impossible things begin to take place, the group discovers that time is passing at an unnaturally rapid rate and that escape from the picturesque spot, which is surrounded by high cliffs, appears to be impossible. Anyone attempting to follow the path they took to get there hits an invisible barrier and loses consciousness.

There’s potential in the situation, but Shyamalan mostly fails to capitalize on it. As Trent and Maddox — now played, respectively, by Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie — face sudden adolescence, their soon-elderly parents begin to gain the perspective of old age. Deteriorating Chrystal, meanwhile, is headed for a harsh lesson about vanity.

More dubiously, Trent and Kara (Eliza Scanlen), Charles and Chrystal’s daughter, teach themselves the facts of life. Their encounter transpires off-screen, however, with only Kara’s burgeoning belly evincing what has happened, so there’s no “Blue Lagoon”-style exploitation.

Shyamalan’s script, adapted from Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederick Peeters’ 2010 graphic novel “Sandcastle,” goes down numerous blind alleys before reaching a wrap-up that, while unlikely, at least makes more sense than the shaky explanations behind many a horror flick. By that time, however, audience interest has long since evaporated.

The film contains some bloody violence, medical gore, brief rear nudity, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, a couple of profanities, several milder oaths and at least one use each of rough and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.


Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.