Written by Wan Tyszkiewicz
This film is one of a kind. Preposterous in its fantasy elements but held together with sound acting skills from Blake Lively, and a surprise performance from Harrison Ford, and at the end of the day this is a fantasy and a beautifully woven film. In terms of temporality, ‘The Age Of Adaline’ is an interesting film that locks into a sense of nostalgia, but overall delivers charm and maturity.
Adaline, played by Blake Lively, is rendered ageless after a freak car accident. There’s stardust and a mystical male voiceover that alerts the audience to the unusualness of this film, its anchorage in fantasy and flight from anything real. But don’t let that put you off. This is a surprisingly good film that ponders on age and looks at decrepitness through a youthful lens; it’s nostalgic, poetic and touching.
Adaline has remained 29 years of age for about eight decades. She has a daughter who knows about her secret, played brilliantly by Ellen Burstyn – a woman who is actually 82 years old. Every decade, Adaline must change her identity, up sticks and move on in order to guard her secret. This is brought home with the loss of her beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that has aged and now needs to be put to sleep. It turns out that this precious pet is one of many dear dogs that Adaline has had to bid farewell to as their time comes to an end.
Adaline has avoided love over the years, because that would involve pain to herself and her partner when she must inevitably retreat to avoid being found out. She has had lovers and admirers over the decades, but she falls in love with Ellis (Michiel Huisman) when she is about a week away from changing her identity yet again and moving on. Her daughter, Flemming (Burstyn), tries to persuade her mother to let go and trust this new man with her secret. Adaline spends a weekend with Ellis and his family celebrating his parent’s 40th anniversary, only to discover that his father is one of her past lovers. And he recognises her. Awkward.
This film has been described as a “meditation on mortality” and there are plenty of hooks and references that lead the viewer in that direction. But in reality the film is held together, in the absence of a coherent story, by outstanding performances from Lively and Ford. Through flashbacks we see how Adaline was rendered immortal and the heartbreak and loneliness that living forever would entail. The costumes and props are, at times, visually stunning. It’s as though the writer and director have plucked Adaline from the 1940s and inserted her into the frenetic madness of the 21st Century, without her being encumbered by technology or the present.
The ending is perhaps slightly flimsy, but only if you forget that this is a fairy story; it is definitely Blake Lively’s best-ever performance. She is compelling, convincing and a delicate creature all at the same time. This is the perfect film to show on Christmas Day if there are several generations to entertain and most of the men are going to fall asleep on the sofa anyway (no stereotyping there). If you do manage to stay awake, you just might find this little film to be a charming tale that has you thinking about it for several hours after the credits.
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Starring: Blake Lively, Michael Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn