The Age of Adaline
Lee Toland Krieger’s The Age of Adeline tells the story of a woman born in the early 20th century who accidentally finds herself immune to aging.
Films like this don’t typically take my fancy but I guess throwing in a sci-fi idea like immorality and you get my attention. When I saw the trailer I found myself interested in the notion of an ageless woman watching time go pass while being afraid to actually interact with the world around her lest endure repeated heartbreak as people she loves die over and over again.
The Age of Adaline initially develops this concept well by showing Adaline (Blake Lively) -who at that time goes by Jenny- in the present day preparing to abandon her identity and move on again before people become suspicious. Since she perpetually looks like a woman in her mid 20s that only gives her a few years of being around the same people before people would notice that she isn’t visibly aging like the rest of them are. This is pointed out in an early flashback scene where someone comments that she and her daughter look the same age.
It’s not something that’s overdone but the tragedy of never belonging anywhere is evident from early on and it’s clear that it upsets Adaline. She feels like a rock stuck in a stream as the water moves around her. Everything around her changed but she doesn’t.
She has some things that she can enjoy such as a friend who is blind and therefore won’t notice her lack of aging as well as a close relationship to her daughter Flemming (Ellen Burstyn) who looks very much older than she does. Her friend isn’t featured beyond one scene but her relationship with Flemming appears throughout and serves to anchor the film in a sort of disturbed reality. It feels weird but the unconventional mother/daughter relationship works really well. Lively still takes on the mother role and gives advice as a mother would without drawing attention to the physical weirdness of this. It’s sort of like Freaky Friday except everyone is in the right body.
Naturally there needs to be a point where everything changes and Adaline’s routine of existing is challenged. This comes in the form of handsome rich guy Ellis (Michiel Huisman) who inspires Adaline to want to live again and open her heart to someone. This story develops pretty much as you’d expect a love story with tragic circumstances to play out.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I didn’t actually believe that Ellis was the sort of guy that would make Adaline change the way she lives. The actors don’t really have the necessary chemistry to make this work and the film doesn’t spend a lot of time developing their relationship to the extent that would make Adaline feel the way she apparently does. It’s the major failing of the whole story that these two don’t quite work as this life changing couple.
I actually thought the most interesting relationship was between Adaline and William (Harrison Ford). William is a man she left behind when he was on the cusp of proposing. He represents her last moment of weakness and leaving him is something she deeply regrets. I really like the idea of her coming across an old lover who has aged naturally when she remains the same and the writing was at its strongest when these two characters interacted. William’s entry to the story was really contrived but once I got past that I found it really interesting.
Harrison Ford gets a lot of flack these days for phoning in his performances and generally seeming fed up in every role he does but he really sinks his teeth into this one. His confusion and desperation are very powerful and Blake Lively plays the anguish that Adaline feels whenever she is around him wonderfully. I would have actually watched a whole film about these two reuniting after a lifetime apart.
What was seen of this aspect of the film was great but it didn’t have enough time on screen to reach the greatness it could have. The flashbacks to how they met and what made their relationship develop don’t really show why Adaline would decide to risk getting close to him. I have to give the film credit for casting Anthony Ingruber as the young William, he really looked and sounded a lot like a young Harrison Ford. I don’t think people should rush to cast him as Indiana Jones or Han Solo but here he was believably the young version of that character.
Blake Lively does a really good job of playing a character who looks so young and acts so old. There’s a certain wisdom, refinement and old fashioned nature to the way she talks and she manages to pull off the old sayings that she uses day to day convincingly. There’s a lot of subtlety to her performance that never transcends to being over the top. I was utterly convinced by her throughout. To use a cheesy saying, she seemed like she had an “old soul”.
I did feel like the film was a little long winded and I don’t think the focus was in the right place. The dullest relationship got the most screen time and the more interesting one came across as more of a subplot. I feel that it should have been the other way around as I was much more interested in seeing that one.
It’s a very strange film in the sense that I initially felt like I didn’t like it all that much but I found that there were aspects of it that I couldn’t stop thinking about a couple of hours after it had ended. The more interesting aspects of the film seem to have stayed with me. I suspect that if I watched it again then I would find the same problems but there was clearly something interesting bubbling just below the surface.
A film filled with missed opportunities that buries the more interesting plot points underneath a surface of mediocrity.
Conceptually the film is a really interesting one and the idea of an ageless woman who constantly sees the world change around her is developed really well initially. There is a tragedy to Adaline that is portrayed without ever feeling overdone. The script isn’t going for obvious sympathy but it’s clear that Adaline is a character upset with her situation.
The character of Ellis didn’t quite work for me as someone who was special enough to make Adaline want to risk the heartache associated with her situation. It was a combination between how the relationship was written and the chemistry between the actors that fails to make it the love story it should have been.
Adaline’s relationship with Harrison Ford’s William proves to be the most interesting aspect of the film. He is a man she left behind just before he proposed and it’s something she regrets. It’s the first time that she’s ever been faced with this situation and the pain is evident from both of them. Harrison Ford does a fantastic job playing his character here.
Blake Lively does a really good job playing a character who looks young but has an “old soul”. She feels like a woman out of time and projects an inner wisdom really well. Lively pulls off talking like a woman well beyond her years wonderfully.
In general poor pacing and the wrong focus point for the story really brings this film down. Adaline and William’s story was the most interesting one but it takes a back seat to the less engaging romance plot with Ellis.