Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Cast: Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, Michiel Huisman. Amanda Crew, Kathy Baker, Ellen Burstyn
Runtime: 1 hr 59 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Opening Day: 30 April 2015
Synopsis: ADALINE is about a vibrant, captivating woman who, after experiencing a near-fatal car crash, learns that she is fated to stay forever young. Time is no longer an enemy. Those around her will age and pass away, the world will change, her spirited young daughter will evolve into a woman in her 80s - yet Adaline remains in her prime. Her great gift is also her greatest curse. Keeping her secret means Adaline has to maintain a highly restricted life. She must change her name and abandon her friends every decade to avoid suspicion. She can never allow herself to fall in love. At the heart of things, she always stays alone. Then, a chance encounter changes everything. Ellis is handsome and kind, fully Adaline’s match in terms of wit and sophistication. With inventive persistence, Ellis breaks down her barriers. Mutual attraction is powerful, but even more powerful is his ability to make her laugh. Adaline falls hard for him, risking exposure, breaking all her rules.
What does it mean to never grow old? What does it mean to be able to live forever? That fantasy becomes a reality for 29-year-old Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively), a woman born at the turn of the 20th century who miraculously survives a terrible car accident at that age sometime in the late 1930s and then simply stops ageing (which we are informed by the narration in a cheeky self-aware tone is a phenomenon that won’t be discovered until the year 2035). In other words, Adaline gets to remain in her late 20s, even as the world advances around her.
While that may be for some people a blessing to die for, Adaline clearly does not share the same sentiments. The present-day Adaline and the one we first meet goes by the name of Jennifer Lawson or Jenny for short, works at the San Francisco city archive, and keeps only to herself with the exception of a blind pianist friend (Lynda Boyd) and her now-octogenarian daughter Flemming (Ellen Burtsyn). While both of them urge her to find a guy and fall in love, Adaline politely declines the advances of each and every one who approaches her at the New Year Eve’s party she is attending.
There is however one persistent individual whom she ends up falling in love with – a hunky Bay-area app millionaire named Ellis (Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman). Though she leaves the party without leaving her name or contact, he tracks her down, makes a generous donation to the archive in order to get her out for a date, and they end up bonding over baseball lore as a well as a mutual love of civic history. Nevertheless, Adaline stops short of saying that she loves him, or for that matter, committing herself to him. After all, how would she explain that she has a condition which makes growing old together impossible?
Yet, despite her initial reservations, she agrees to spend a weekend with his parents – William (Harrison Ford) and Kathy (Kathy Baker) – at their cottage up in the woods, an encounter that makes for a delicious twist of fate, and without giving away the surprise, let’s just say it isn’t the first time that Adaline has met William. Their reunion is skilfully written, a perfect complement to the relationship between Ellis and Adaline for reasons that are best fathomed on your own. This much we will say though – it also works magnificently to bring closure to Adaline’s unique circumstance, culminating in a beautiful tragedy that makes for one of the most bittersweet and yet satisfying endings we’ve seen in a while.
Indeed, while the intriguing premise of a woman who is through a twist of fate gifted with agelessness could have been spun in many different ways, the script concocted by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz explores the downsides of eternal youth in the context of a romance. Afraid that she will become some specimen, Adaline has consigned herself to changing her identity and residence every few years, just so she can avoid obvious suspicion from friends and acquaintances. But the greater toll here is on her love life – not only is she afraid of getting close to anyone, she quickly disappears when she senses that she has, which has only left her with a string of heartbreaks over the years.
Under the sensitive direction of Lee Toland Krieger, Adaline’s tale of love and loss acquires both elegance and confidence. Krieger doesn’t overplay the fantastical aspects of his story, nor does he overplay the melodramatic bits; instead, he strikes just the right tone from beginning to finish, and even throws in some measure of good humour. That is also credit to his actors, who bring warmth and earnestness to their characters. Lively has had her fair share of detractors for sure, but no matter what others may have said about her acting, she handles the potentially tricky titular role with just the right balance of nuance and emotion. It doesn’t hurt that she and Huisman have good chemistry, which makes it easy to buy into her character’s star-crossed love with Ellis. Veterans Burstyn and Ford also lend excellent support; and despite the ostensible age differences between the actors, it is pleasantly surprising how one never questions the authenticity of their onscreen relationships.
Perhaps the best compliment one can pay ‘The Age of Adaline’ is that it knows exactly what it wants to be and it sets out to be just that. This is a modern-day romantic fantasy, one that alludes to love, or the lack of it, as a cosmic alignment or misalignment, and recognises how these constellations in the sky can exert cruel irony on the people we want to choose to love. And the greatest irony which ‘Adaline’ so aptly embodies is this – that eternal beauty is no guarantee of eternal love; quite the contrary in fact, it is in being able to age together with the one we love that we gain the ability to love in the very first place.
(Sensitive, funny, warm and poignant, this tale of an ageless woman seeking love is a beautiful modern-day romantic fantasy)
Review by Gabriel Chong