A still from Old

Old: will the ending of M. Night Shyamalan’s new film stay true to the novel it’s inspired by?

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Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan is famed for his brilliant plot twists – so it’s no surprise that the ending of his new film, Old, is attracting a lot of speculation online. But will the ending of the film be similar to the book that inspired it?

Warning: the following article contains heavy spoilers for Sandcastle, the inspiration for M. Night Shyamalan’s new film, Old. Only read on if you want to find out what happens at the end of the graphic novel which the film is based on.

With the release date for M. Night Shyamalan’s new film Old now right around the corner, there’s a lot of speculation as to what might happen at the end.

You see, if there is one thing fans of the esteemed filmmaker – known for creating cult classics such as The Sixth Sense and The Village – have learnt to expect over the years, it’s the unexpected.

If you’re not yet familiar with the premise for his new film, it’s about a group of people who find themselves stuck on a beach which is somehow causing them to age rapidly, reducing their entire lives to a single day. 

The question, then, is this: what is causing them to age so rapidly? And is there a way to escape the beach? 

Ever since the official trailer for the film (which you can watch below) was released at the end of May, those have been the questions on everyone’s lips – with many fans coming up with their own theories as to what might be going on.  

The ending has also come up in numerous interviews with the film’s cast – in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Alex Wolff, who plays Trent, said the film’s ending was “really different” and “like nothing I’ve ever seen”. 

Of course, the biggest question everyone’s wondering is whether or not the film will stay true to the source material its inspired by – Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeter’s hugely popular graphic novel, Sandcastle. Famously, the book doesn’t have a big plot twist (more on that later) – so, will Shyamalan be following suit in Old

While the film isn’t a direct adaptation of the book, it is looking like Shyamalan could stay true to some aspects of the ending and not include a big plot twist in the movie. 

M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night Shyamalan at the premiere for Old.

Speaking at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, he said he was working out how to end the film on a “minor note,” adding: “The minor note sticks to you forever.”

So, if Shyamalan does choose to stick to some aspects of the original novel, what might the film’s ending look like? If you’re someone who loves to know the end of a film before you’ve even watched it, keep reading to find out more about the conclusion of Sandcastle

What happens at the end of Sandcastle

Sandcastle tells the story of 13 strangers who find themselves stranded in an idyllic cove; two families with young children, an Algerian refugee who sleeps in the cliffs above the beach, a young couple and a science fiction writer.

Things seem almost utopic in the cove – the water is clear and the sun is shining – but it’s not long before the strangers start happening upon random articles of clothing, which lead them to the body of a dead girl floating in the water.

Next, the two families start to realise their children are growing – quickly. At first, the parents believe they might be imagining things – that they bought the wrong size swimming trunks, or that their children are experiencing a major growth spurt – but as the children reach and go through puberty, all within the space of a couple of hours, it’s clear something strange is happening on the beach.

Sandcastle cover
Old is based on Sandcastle, the graphic novel by Pierre Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters.

At the same time, one of the men attempts to pin the girl’s death on the Algerian refugee, who was first on the beach and saw the young girl undress and go into the water. When he goes to call the police, however, he encounters a voice on the other end of the line saying that the number is invalid.

Confronted with the realisation that something is very wrong, many of the people attempt to leave the beach, only to be confronted by an invisible wall. It quickly dawns on one of the men that this was probably what killed the young woman in the water – she hit the wall, was knocked unconscious and drowned as a result. In short, the 13 strangers are stuck – and time is running out for all of them, fast.     

This realisation sends a kind of crazed hysteria around the group, leading many of the young adults (once-children) to act impulsively. Two pairs sneak off to sleep together, leading one of the young women to get pregnant. Of course, everything happens quickly on the beach, so within minutes she’s cradling a baby in her arms.

It’s at this point when something really unexplained happens – and it’s a point which has attracted a lot of debate online since the book was first published. Hearing the sound of gunfire behind them, the group turn around to see a young man running across the grassland which surrounds the entrance to the cove.

The young man, a figure which one of the girls identifies as “the hotelier’s son” José, is being shot at repeatedly from someone out of sight – and before he can reach the beach, he’s gunned down and killed, leaving the reason for his appearance completely unexplained.  

At this point, everyone on the beach is completely despondent, and they return to drink up the last of the wine the families brought with them that morning. In an attempt to comfort the ‘children’ (now middle-age adults), the refugee tells them the story of a King who tries to evade death – only to lose the last seven years of his life to fear. It’s a sweet and meaningful moment which ends with the group falling asleep on top of each other.

And that’s… kind of all that happens. Forget a massive plot twist that sees everyone saved from the beach – or at least reveals the reason for their ageing – with the ‘children’ fast asleep, the parents pass away, and later on in the night, so do the ‘children’.  

The only person left on the beach in the book’s closing moments is the child born on the beach that day (who is also now a fully-grown woman), left to build a sandcastle on her own. 

Because the film is only inspired by the book – and M. Night Shyamalan is known for his plot twists – we doubt Old will end in quite so simple a manner, although we’ll have to wait and see when the film hits cinemas on 23 July.

For now, why not pick up a copy of the book and get reading? The plot may be ever-so-slightly macabre, but there’s also something strangely beautiful and meaningful about it all – especially when paired with Frederik Peeters’ haunting and detailed illustrations. 

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Images: Universal Studios/SelfMadeHero

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.