The Age of Adaline
In the last 100 years, the world has seen two World Wars and seventeen American presidents. Women and minorities gained rights in several nations. Man launched into space and set foot on the moon. The Internet forged connections to transverse rugged mountains and vast oceans. In a century, the face of the world has drastically changed.
But what has changed about Adaline Bowman? Absolutely nothing.
Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) is the ageless protagonist of The Age of Adaline. Born at the turn of the century, a freak accident and chance lightning strike renders the 29 year-old Adaline incapable of aging, granting her immortality. Our narrator (Hugh Ross) explains the lightning strike had caused a special reaction in her DNA – the mechanics of which would not be understood until 2035. In this world, science underlies Adaline’s blessing (or curse) of eternal life.
This first bit of writing makes The Age of Adaline unique from other immortality stories in that the science behind her accident lends plausibility to her condition. Yet the movie’s scope remains on Adaline’s trouble with creating long-term relationships – friendly or romantic – which risk unveiling her secret. She is thus fated to continuously move, change her name, and refrain from falling in love. Only her daughter Flemming is in on the secret and soon surpasses her mother in age, allowing Ellen Burstyn to play the elderly daughter of a beautiful 29 year-old woman.
Adaline lives the roaring twenties, the techie 2000s, and everything in between. Her journey is punctuated by stellar cinematography and production design that immerses us in the visual styles of each era, yet creates a kind of familiarity across her life.
The gorgeous visual choreography extends into the present day as well, when she meets philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) at a New Year’s Eve party. Ellis’s pursuit of Adaline – who currently goes by Jennifer to hide her secret – ignites a romance unlike anything Adaline has ever experienced. Along with Adaline, we are aware she must run away soon, but that only makes her chemistry with Ellis sweeter. Conflicting emotions well up within her, and Lively’s compelling performance makes that clear and accessible, even as she elegantly glides from room to room and scene to scene.
The Age of Adaline reaches its peak later in the film, when Ellis brings his newfound love to meet his parents, Kathy (Kathy Baker) and William (Harrison Ford). Although only having a few scenes, William introduces a dose of external conflict into the story, and Ford gives one of his more sensitively impassioned performances in recent memory. Adaline’s secret just might come out.
The film’s memorable story and strong performances give it enough oomph to overcome perhaps a less-than-satisfying conclusion, which finishes a little too neatly to be believable, and does not even come by Adaline’s volition. Even the scientific explanation of her immortality was more plausible. In addition, some computer-generated shots in space negate the movie’s grounding in reality, even though they serve a parallelism between a comet’s path and Adaline’s journey through time.
But only the critical eye can spot these weaknesses, and our eyes are anything but critical when they are under the spell of the film’s fine performances, passionate romances, and colorful cinematography. It may not be bulletproof, but The Age of Adaline makes for one of the year’s most refreshingly original and memorable stories, especially as we are inundated with adaptions, sequels, and superheroes.