Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell, Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, and Embeth Davidtz.
Directed By: M Night Shyamalan
Where i Watched It: HBO MAX
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
Description Provided By: The Media Acccess Group
Narrated By: Roy Samuelson
The Plot: On a remote beach, a group of random strangers have all won a random trip to a swanky resort, where a quick day trip to an isolated part of the island leaves them trapped in a place where time moves at its own speed, and these strangers start aging rapidly. Can they escape before it’s too late, or are they doomed to die of old age?
What Works: Like all films from Shyamalan, there’s more to the story, and that extra little dash of intrigue helps the film. Of course, he’s used to people looking for a grand twist at the end, so he’s actually pretty upfront about the twist, and therefore the ending feels a little less like a “Gotcha!” Moment, than some of his other films (like The Village).
This film was marketed mostly as a family on a beach, though there are many strangers on this beach. It’s not terribly scary or gory, it just is. It’s scary to face your own mortality, and maybe the prospect of doing so in such a rapid succession, but other than that, this film is pretty surface. It is what it is.
I found Gael Garcia Bernal’s acting to be a standout, as he really does a fantastic job, more so than anyone else in the cast, of relaying his age as he progresses. It’s not the worst film from Shyamalan, but it’s also not his best.
What Doesn’t Work: I checked out almost immediately. Just to be 100% transparent, I could no longer take the film seriously when a director and writer that i respect so much thought it might be fun to make some kind of point by having a character named Midsize Sedan. He included a rapper with a silly name, but the name is so silly, it feels more like the name that The Wayans Brothers would have used in their Scary movie parody of Old, and not the name Shyamalan uses. If we are starting with midsize Sedan, how much more absurd can you get?
And this is where I start telling you that this is not a film for blind people. So, let’s just jump to my next phase, which blends quite well with why the film didn’t work.
The Blind Perspective: Rarely, if ever, do i feel like a film or a tv show is an impossibility for us in our community, even with audio description. But the hard truth here is that we are getting a very different movie. Instead of being able to just accept that there’s this rapper with a silly name, we unfortunately hear that name every time Midsize Sedan decides to do anything. If he gets up and moves around, or finds something, or gets into a fight, it’s always audio description like “midsize Sedan enters the cave” or “Midsize Sedan is attacked from behind:, and it all becomes this unintentional hilarious mess because it’s like picturing Lightning McQueen from Cars being trapped on this beach for some insane reason. There’s not much the audio description can do about this either. He’s never given a real name. His name in credits is Midsize Sedan. Therefore, that’s all the narrators had to go off. They could have reduced his name to either “Midsize” or “Sedan”, but I think that might have only slightly fixed the problem that was created only by M Night Shyamalan and whatever drugs led him to picking that name.He turns his horror movie into a comedy.
Also, fundamentally, we are missing this film on the aging level. We do not get to see these actors age, and while the description is quick to point out when someone makes a major change (like a character whose back starts to curve when they get old), and the movie does (like a character who starts to lose their hearing), the physical transformations are lost on us. The description would need to lean heavily on the wrinkles, age spots, grey hair, and it would be spending a bulk of its time just telling us about the aging process of these people. Which, might have needed to happen, but just seems like a ton of description.
As far as the kids go, they end up being played by multiple actors. As fun as it would be to see a 6 yer old trying to play an adult, we get multiple actors at different age ranges playing each one of the kids. And when that change occurs, it’s not telegraphed to the audience in the description how that change was made. Here is where I might have thrown in a note to the blind audiences that it’s now a completely different actor as the character has aged up so much that the younger actor previously in the role was no longer believable. It’s rare to hear audio description that includes actors names, but I almost would have gone that route here. At least with the major people on the beach.
If you do it for all the tourists, at the very beginning, it just seems natural, and your audience won’t be expecting the changes, so they won’t feel like spoilers. It’ll just be additional information in the film, so that when it actually becomes relevant, you’ve already preprogrammed your audience into following the characters with actors attached to them.
The audio description, read well by Roy Samuelson, does wwhat it believes it needs to do, and normally would have sufficed for a film in this genre. It does a good job of describing the few gory moments, like a body part being bent in an unnatural form, or a surgery sequence. So, if old had been more straight forward, this description would have worked. But as it is, it’s really not enough for the actual experience this film is shooting for. Can you get through the movie? Sure. you’ll understand the direction it is headed. But this movie is based around a magic trick of being able to make people age out and die in less than 24 hours. It’s one of those rare films where you need to see the passage of time, and in the abscence of that, you have to over explain elements of the film you wouldn’t normally concern yourself with.
There are some attempts made, but only in key moments. Yet I have a feeling these characters are ever evolving, and even in the quieter breaks when noting is happening, it might have made sense to continue to update us on how their appearance has continued to shift, which I know is hard for this large of an expendable cast, but otherwise this film is just rather meaningless.
Final Thoughts: Even wth mind blowing audio description that immerses me in the aging process, there STILL is a character named Midsized Sedan, and because of how we hear names in the audio description, I spent far too much time laughing at this than I should have. But, as it stands, I just really don’t recommend this movie to the blind community, for anything other than an experiment. It’s not because the film is bad, it’s just that this film gives you a very different experience than intended, or that your sighted friends got.
Final Grade: C