Adaline is a lovely woman. She’s smart, beautiful, funny, charming, worldly, and has a timeless fashion sense. There’s only one “catch”: she doesn’t age. Adaline has looked like a 20-something Blake Lively for almost 80 years, which is the conflict in The Age of Adaline. While the character herself doesn’t really understand why this has happened to her, an omniscient narrator informs the audience that it was because of a freak accident where an extreme drop in body temperature after she crashed her car into a lake was followed by a bolt of lightning hitting the water and reviving her while also making her immune to the ravages of time. Being ageless doesn’t sound like such a bad gig, until people start to get suspicious and Adaline flees her hometown and begins a cycle of assuming other identities for fear of becoming a curiosity that will be poked and prodded by doctors.
Because of this adopted lifestyle, Adaline must avoid developing serious relationships with anyone. The only person who knows her secret is her daughter, played by Ellen Burstyn (it’s quite amusing to watch scenes where Blake Lively acts as a mother to Ellen Burstyn). At a New Year’s Eve party, Adaline is spotted by Ellis (Michiel Huisman) who is instantly enchanted with her. Despite her brushing him off, he pursues her and she eventually sees that he is the perfect man to her perfect woman.
Everything about Age of Adaline is very pretty. It’s a pretty story told with pretty pictures (particularly the flashbacks) and pretty people. It’s a fantasy that tries to present itself as realistic at times, but there’s not much that’s relatable to most people here. The characters are just too perfect and the only conflict is something most people would be jealous of. Things get a little more complicated when she meets Ellis’ parents and realizes she has a history with his father (Harrison Ford), but there’s never really any doubt that things will end happily for these two. As a side note, one of the film’s biggest joys comes from seeing how well Ford can play befuddled.
Despite being a relatively straightforward romance, there are some other influences at play here. Obviously there’s a dash of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, not just in the aging anomaly aspect, but also how different decades are shot with a kind of glossed over nostalgic lens that is quite beautiful. Any fan of the underrated film The Assassination of Jesse James will recognize the voice of the narrator Hugh Ross. He has a great voice and is able to set up the somewhat silly premise with authority. The script tries a little too hard to give a scientific explanation for what happened to Adaline, even giving the phenomenon a technical name and stating that it will not be known by scientists until the year 2035. I’m sure most of the audience would have just been fine with magic. If you’re going to get technical about things then maybe try to explain a few other things, like is she immortal? Does she ever get sick? Does she order the early bird special at restaurants?
This is a much more classical romance than director Lee Toland Krieger’s previous film, Celeste and Jesse Forever, but there’s nothing wrong with making something a little more traditional. In an era where films like 50 Shades of Grey are considered mainstream romance, it’s nice to have one that you can take grandma to.
While you’re here, take a look at our interview with leading man Michiel Huisman.