Movie: The Age of Adaline
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Cast: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Kathy Barker, Ellen Burstyn
Rating: Two-and-a-half stars
The Age of Adaline travels where so many other films/literary works have gone before: The idea of eternal life, youth or beauty and all that it implies. These depictions have ranged from the strange, like F.Scot Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, to the philosophical Curious Case of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and the hilarious Merly Streep-Goldie Hawn starrer Death Becomes Her or the young adult-oriented Tuck Everlasting. Like all of these works, The Age of Adaline also stresses that anything other than the natural order of things actually has less-than-pleasant consequences.
Adaline (Blake Lively) is a beautiful, young, recently bereaved widow who gets into a car crash on a snowy night. She is almost dead of hypothermia, then a flash of lightning revives her — somehow arresting the aging process of her body. Most of us might end up with a broken limb or concussion, but Adaline suffers eternal youth.
She doesn’t immediately realise that something is different. It is only as her daughter grows up, but Adaline — then 45 — still looks the same as she did at 29, that the penny drops. Of course, by the time Adaline realises that she isn’t aging, so do a whole lot of other people, including the authorities, who’re very interested in investigating her. Faced with the prospect of being labeled a “freak” or worse, Adaline goes into hiding, after a heartrending parting from her daughter.
Over the next eight decades, Adaline adopts a way of life that won’t get her noticed. She adopts a new identity, home and look every 10 years, changing all of her paperwork. Her daughter (now an old lady, she can pass off for Adaline’s grandmother) is the only one she is in touch with, and Adaline’s life — as we see it — is a lonely one, with no real friendships or attachments. She can’t form any important relationships because her secret cannot be disclosed; if she were to fall in love, she would never be able to “grow old” with her partner.
Then, lightning strikes again — this time of the figurative sort — in the person of Ellis (Michiel Huisman). Adaline resists him at first, then submits. A further twist in the tale emerges when she agrees to spend a weekend at Ellis’ parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) home. And in doing so, has to face all of the questions and possibilities she thought she was long done with.
Except for its premise, The Age of Adaline traverses familiar romantic drama territory — and definitely isn’t among the well-written films of the genre. But several elements elevate it the experience: Lively and Huisman, for instance, make for such a photogenic lead pair, that you can’t help but keep your eyes on them while they’re on screen (is there an irony in the fact that film that purports to be a meditation on the pitfalls of being young and beautiful forever, wins because of the youth and beauty of its actors?).
Then there’s their chemistry and the individual charm they bring to their roles (Huisman plays Ellis with much earnestness, while Lively invests Adaline with reserve and grace). Predictably, Harrison Ford is a treat to watch as Ellis’ father. It’s also interesting to see the exchanges between Adaline and her daughter (Ellen Burstyn) — the disparity between their ages and experiences and their relation to each other, a reversal of the usual mother-daughter equation in so many ways. Adding a touch of whimsy to the film is the grave narrator, who fills us in on the story from time to time.
The Age of Adaline then is a pleasant enough depiction of passion, if not a deep rumination on the perils of eternal youth....