The Age of Adaline movie review

Featuring: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Kathy Baker, Ellen Burstyn
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Writers: J. Mills Goodloe, Salvador Paskowitz, Allison Burnett
Movie website:
Australian release date: !6 April, 2015

Reviewer: rolanstein
Verdict: Emotionally under-powered, but romance fans will probably still enjoy this. Not enough is made of the immortality sub-theme to sustain other viewers.

This is yet another movie that launches off the concept of immortality. It doesn’t bring anything to the table that hasn’t already been served up, but it’s a romance with a bit of fantasy worked into the mix, not the converse, so expectations of imaginative and philosophical acrobatics are unrealistic. Indeed, not much is made of the immortality bit, which functions mostly to lend novelty to an otherwise traditionally shaped romance narrative, and support the guiding thesis of the piece – that love gives life meaning and requires commitment, m’kay? Oh, and that quality trumps quantity.

To the story, then. Adaline (Blake Lively) is over a century old, but hasn’t aged a second since a car accident in her mid-20s. Via voice-over narration, the science (fiction) behind her apparent immortality is explained in impressively unintelligible terms. Through a combination of enacted scenes and a whole lot more narration (when extended like this, surely the naffest of exposition modes), we learn that in order to escape government scrutiny she has avoided putting down roots, never staying put for long and living a solitary existence apart from a series of pet dogs memorialised in a photo album (cue violins).

This has not always been the case: Adaline has a now elderly daughter (Ellen Burstyn), who is the only person who knows her secret. This potentially dramatically rich mother-daughter role reversal is under-exploited. Indeed, their interaction is all-too-ordinary. The opportunity to have a wry look at generational differences, or even to milk some comic relief from the arse-about relationship, is passed over.

When Adaline meets top bloke Ellis (Michiel Huisman), there is an immediate attraction, throwing her into turmoil. Does she dare follow her heart after decades of single life and risk an involvement that will blow her cover, or flee?

At this point, after a slow first half, the story perks up and with Adaline’s introduction to Ellis’s parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) the immortality idea is given more creative rein, along with some lite-but-interesting and dramatically pivotal Oedipal elements. The upshot is that Adaline is confronted with her past and forced into the Big Decision: to commit or not to commit. It’s a deftly managed narrative climax. And a sting in the tale awaits…well, more a big friendly wag as it turns out.

There are plot holes aplenty, but nothing that won’t be forgiven or overlooked by romance fans. Of more concern, there is not enough electricity between the leads to generate much emotional power. Indeed, the only lump-in-the-throat moment comes when an abruptly truncated love story from Adaline’s distant past is finally resolved decades later, with the revelation that her old (literally!) jilted lover had honoured her with the grand astronomical gesture of carving her name on an extraterrestrial rock (don’t think about it if you want to avoid spoiling the most swoon-worthy moment in the film).

There’s enough here for the target demographic to chow down on and emerge reasonably satisfied, but those with expectations of being swept away may end up in much the same place they started off, and thus a little disappointed.

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