Blake Lively is Adaline Bowman, a beautiful young woman who ceases to age after a mysterious near-fatal accident. For almost eight decades, immune to the ravages of time while others grow old, Adaline leads a solitary life, never allowing herself to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret. But a chance encounter with charismatic philanthropist, Ellis Jones, reawakens her passion for life and love. When a weekend with his parents threatens to uncover the truth, Adaline makes a decision that will change her life forever.
You can tell from the trailer that The Age of Adaline is a sumptuous feast for the eyes, not only because of its beautiful cast, but also the beauty of the settings. It hints at, rather than delves into, different eras. This is the world through vintage, rose-tinted glasses. It is aesthetically pleasing in even its darkest moments, which is strange for a film that is meant to reproach the human obsession with eternal beauty and youth.
The film’s director, Lee Toland Krieger (The Vicious Kind, and Celeste and Jesse Forever) said the screenplay resonated with him because of its essential theme of life’s cycles and the process of ageing.
“I had never read anything that focused on the beauty of growing old. The world we live in is so consumed with youth and vanity. I thought this was a very touching idea.”
It is certainly sentimental, and posits the idea that eternal youth isn’t as enticing a prospect as enjoying the natural cycles of life.
Yet, the film seems also to be a celebration of literal beauty – Lively’s in particular – and indeed that “special” kind of woman who is not your everyday kind of girl. She turns heads, no matter what decade she lives in. As I watched, captivated by Lively’s stunning presence, her amazing wardrobe, and her hair, the latter of which deserves a screen credit of its own, all I could think was: This should be called The Beauty of Blake Lively, not The Age of Adaline.
I like stories that incorporate magical realism, but it seems the most interesting part of Adaline’s transformation would be that she sees decades of existence. We are only treated to mere glimpses of these. This is not a journey but the culmination of decades of living like a hermit. We don’t see it so much as get told the difficulty of such an experience through a jarring narration, and a strange mother/daughter dynamic – Ellen Burstyn playing a youthful elderly daughter to Lively’s hardened and wooden centenarian.
On that point, it’s worth noting the entrance of Harrison Ford, who delivers a strong performance as a man ravaged by lost love, and Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman as Ellis, the (current) love interest of Adaline, also delivers a charismatic performance as the infatuated suitor.
Perhaps it’s that we live in such dark times that films succeed the most when they are truly escapist, but even then, the better ones are fun, silly and far from reality. The Age of Adaline, while beautiful in picture, doesn’t really say much at all, and we don’t really get to have fun while Adaline tries to work her way out of a hermit-like existence.