In spite of the enchantment that exists in Lee Toland Krieger’s ambitious, fantastical drama Age of Adaline, the picture is devalued by an inclination for cliched, overtly cinematic dialogue, which is so distinctly unnatural (and where the romance is concerned, tremendously mawkish). In real life, people don’t actually talk like this. But then again, in real life people don’t live to be over 100 and yet not look a day under 30. So guess that gives the filmmakers a little bit of licence, which, let’s just say, they use up.
Blake Lively plays Adaline, born at the turn of the 20th century, who is rendered ageless and seemingly immortal, when the victim of a car accident is struck by lightning. What transpires is almost a century of running away, never letting anybody on to her secret, as one that only her elderly daughter Flemming (Ellen Burstyn) is aware of. As a result, Adaline struggles to form any relationships, as there becomes a point with all partners where they would question why she doesn’t age – which is when she flees. But when she falls for the persistent Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), she knows the same may just happen again – until she meets his father, William (Harrison Ford), and her past comes flooding back.
With the tale narrated, in a poetic, almost mystical way, Age of Adaline almost takes on the form of a dark fairytale, and while that serves as a positive element – Hugh Ross’ narration is also to the film’s detriment, as we try to find a semblance of realism and scientific understanding within this surreal narrative. This is indicative of the entire production, as one that, rather than just revel in the absurdity of it all, can be accused of being too stony-faced in parts. This is cinema, just let us suspend our disbelief, you don’t need to try and sell this entire premise as a plausible thing, with scientific reasoning behind the incident that immortalised our protagonist.
Lively’s has been given a tough challenge with this particular role too, as it’s by no means an easy one to tackle. She’s been tasked with playing a character who has all of the sensibilities and idiosyncrasies of an elderly woman, and yet looks so young and glamorous, having never been granted the chance of growing old in her own body. Yet she completely triumphs – turning in a subtle, understated performance, and you believe in her as a wily, elderly intellectual, in spite of her appearance. Sadly such commendation cannot be extended to Huisman, who epitomises everything that is mawkish and cliched about this endeavour. Adaline has had over a century to find the love of her life, and falls for a man who follows her around like a creepy, floppy haired dog. Honestly.
Arguably the best performance of all comes from Ford, and it comes at just the right time. The film is beginning to lag quite rapidly as we approach the middle stages, and the introduction of William throws in a curveball, and shakes up the narrative. The pacing changes and the film becomes far more engrossing as a result. It’s just a shame that isn’t consistent throughout this project, which is really at the mercy of its quite tedious opening act.