Review By Frances Winston
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan – Starring: Gael García Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Ken Leung, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abbey Lee, Aaron Pierre, Alex Wolff, Embeth Davidtz, Eliza Scanlen, Emun Elliott, Kathleen Chalfant, Thomasin McKenzie
In cinemas now!
I have a complicated relationship with M. Night Shyamalan movies. For every one that I love, there is one that literally sends me to sleep (true story – I have never managed to make it through The Village in its entirety, despite several attempts). When he’s good he’s great, but when he’s bad – well see my The Village anecdote – and there doesn’t seem to be any happy medium. However, one thing I always do expect from his movies is the unexpected. And since this is not his original story, and rather based on a graphic novel, Sandcastle, by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters, I was wondering how he was going to put his stamp on it.
Well, spoilers, if you’re a fan of the graphic novel, he uses it more as a kicking off point than a verbatim plot. It kicks off with a couple, Guy (Bernal) and Prisca (Krieps) travelling to a tropical resort with their young children.
On the verge of divorce, this is intended to be a final family vacation. When the resort’s manager offers them an exclusive trip to a secluded beach by a nature preserve, they think it will be a lovely memory. But this is an M. Night Shyamalan movie, so you already know it won’t be.
It turns out their trip is not that exclusive, and there are several other people there, including erratic surgeon, Charles (Sewell), his vain and shrewish younger wife, Chrystal (Lee) and their young daughter. When they discover a body not long into their visit, things turn sour. They then find themselves unable to leave, and realise that the beach is accelerating their ageing process, which is most obvious in the children, who quickly become young adults. As they try and figure out what is going on, they are conscious that the longer they stay on the beach, the less likely it is that they will make it out alive.
The premise is an interesting one, as obviously ageing is something that affects us all. And Shyamalan sets it up nicely, taking his time introducing the characters, and focusing on the children’s play and their interactions. The cinematography is gorgeous, and will completely suck you in. His script is somewhat hit-and-miss, with rather stilted dialogue, that even some of the most accomplished actors here seem to struggle with at times. And the execution of the story is somewhat uneven, with the viewer not always sure what they are supposed to be focusing on.
At times it feels like an extended episode of Lost.
This is engaging but unfocused. It never seems sure what its core message is. However, it is interesting and entertaining enough to keep you watching, even if it lacks the pathos of the graphic novel.