Lee Toland Krieger’s ambitious, enchanting The Age of Adaline is a dark fairytale of sorts, a magical, twisted endeavour that is surrealistic and fantastical. However it’s the filmmaker’s inability to revel in such a notion which proves to be at the film’s detriment, as despite being a unique, absorbing feature, here’s a title that’s too stony-faced for it’s own good, needing to revel in the absurdity of it all.
The Hugh Ross narration is emblematic of this fact, as while his voice sounds like the sort you’d hear over the top of your favourite Disney animation growing up, he attempts to find a semblance of scientific understanding in this nonsensical narrative, and explain the situation as though plausible – but it couldn’t be further away from that. As Adaline (Blake Lively) was born at the turn of the 20th century, but is rendered ageless and seemingly immortal when she is struck by lightning. Because of her condition – where she always appears as she did on the day of the accident – is disallows her the chance to fall in love and get close to somebody, because she can’t hide the fact she doesn’t age, and is scared of watching loved ones pass away while she remains youthful. Until she meets the charismatic (and rather persistent) Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), and his father William (Harrison Ford), and realises she can’t live like this forever.
Regrettably the enchantment that exists is devalued dramatically by the mawkish, cliched screenplay. People simply do not talk like this in real life, and while the filmmakers are given some licence such is the surrealism of the narrative, it’s distracting to say the least. What does save this film, however, is a remarkable leading turn from Lively, who is faced with a tough challenge, but it’s one she pulls off. You completely believe that she’s an elderly woman trapped in a young body, managing to subtly capture the sensibilities and nuances of both differing age groups. Ford also shines, and his appearance is essential to this film – as just when tedium was kicking in and the film begins to lag, his character breathes new life into proceedings, adding a whole new element to the picture and making for a compelling final act.
Sadly, however, Huisman isn’t quite on the same level as his colleagues, which is in no way helped by the terribly irritating character he is portraying. It does make you wonder: Adaline is waiting 100 years to fall in love, and she ends up going for somebody so mawkish, who is unbearably and tirelessly dogged. So we don’t end up having much sympathy for her, to be honest.