Too often these days, “romantic” movies rely on formulaic drivel, gooey dialogue, and characters more wooden than Lincoln Logs. So when an inventive and thought-provoking fantasy-drama like The Age of Adaline comes along, it’s such a welcome arrival that its flaws can be largely overlooked.
Starring Blake Lively in the title role, The Age of Adaline tells the story of a woman born in 1908. A car accident into frigid water (coupled with a lightning strike), though, fries her synapses when she’s in her mid-20s, leaving her immune to time; she never physically ages. It’s a secret she has to keep (for fear of becoming a medical specimen), and as such, she has to forge a completely new identity every ten years or so.
Now a 106-year-old woman living in San Francisco (and going by the name Jenny), Adaline is growing increasingly tired of living with her condition; her daughter Flemming (Ellen Burstyn) could easily pass for her grandmother, and Adaline can never allow herself to fall in love.
Enter Ellis (Michiel Huisman), a charming philanthropist who tenaciously woos Jenny, despite her best efforts to drive him away. Eventually she starts to soften and even contemplates revealing her secret, but a visit to meet Ellis’ parents changes everything. Ellis’ father (Harrison Ford) recognizes Jenny/Adaline instantly– they had a brief, passionate affair in the 60s.
Lively and Ford both turn in stellar performances that perfectly anchor The Age of Adaline. Lively ingeniously embodies the grace and manners of a (way) old-school, genteel lady, and Ford turns in his best work since 2000’s What Lies Beneath or perhaps even further back, to The Fugitive.
Director Lee Toland Krieger (Celeste & Jesse Forever), working from a script by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz, does a beautiful job evoking the many “ages” of Adaline, drifting adeptly between the 30s, 60s, and present day. It’s a magical journey that never lags– despite a few hiccups along the way.
Aside from completely glossing over the most important question–how long it took Adaline to figure out she wasn’t aging– there are a few too many coincidences, particularly the nearer we get to the finish line (but, hey, it IS science fiction). The droning, God-like narration gets somewhat distracting, too. But The Age of Adaline still manages to emerge as a smart, emotional film nonetheless. It may not be worthy of “one for the ages” stature, but given the recent crop of similar alternatives, it’ll do just fine.