I’m a sucker for tear-jerking dramas. Guilty as charged! Keep the comedies for yourselves, but give me something to have a good cryfest over, and I’ll be the happiest person on Earth. For the longest time ever my favourite film was Legends of the Fall, so you get the idea, and even these days, my go-to comfort movie is No Reservations. There’s probably a clinical term for that kind of thing. Not that I care.
To be honest, I’m not even sure if I planned watching The Age of Adaline at all. In fact, whoever was in charge of its promo campaign did the worst job ever – the only reason I even knew about this film was because I stumbled into its filming sets a few times back in Vancouver (you can’t really avoid this kind of thing when you live in Vancouver). My point is that it would’ve been very easy to overlook The Age of Adalinewithout missing out on something big and meaningful and important. It is not a must-see film and no one will ever be scandalized if you say you’ve never heard about it.
And yet, here I am trying to convince you all to give it a try.
Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) was born on New Year’s Day in 1908 and had a fairly normal life for a while. She grew up, got married, had a daughter of her own, lost her husband in an accident during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Nothing out of the ordinary. Until one day when she got in a car accident during a snowfall in Sonoma County on her way to her parents’ house. After experiencing a clinical death in frigid water and being brought back to life by a lightning strike, she stopped aging, destined to biologically remain 29 years old forever.
After a little while, when it becomes obvious that you can’t look the same age as your daughter, or even younger than her, and get away with it like it’s nothing, Adaline flees San Francisco and starts changing her identity every 10 years or so in order to live like a normal immortal person.
Fast forward to present day. Adaline is back in San Francisco and goes by Jenny. She works at the city library, has a cute spaniel, and takes her now elderly daughter, Fleming (Ellen Burstyn), out for lunch now and then. At the New Year’s Eve party, she meets the handsome and charming Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), and I guess I don’t need to tell you what happens next. Encouraged by Fleming to ‘live a little’, Adaline/Jenny agrees to accompany Ellis to his parents’ 40th anniversary party, not knowing at the time that she used to go out with his father, William (played by Harrison Ford), 50-something years ago.
When William recognizes the scar on her hand and confronts her about it, Adaline panics and takes off. The problem is, she’s tired of running away from her life. It takes her about 15 minutes to realize it, but then it starts snowing (for the first time in 80 years or so), and because of the poor weather conditions, her car gets hit by an oncoming truck.
Cut to a few [movie] minutes later when Ellis catches up with Adaline/Jenny just as the paramedics try to revive her with defibrillators, basically recreating the conditions that caused her ‘immortality’ all those years ago – hypothermia combined with electric shock. Guess what happens next?
Scientifically speaking, The Age of Adaline makes no sense whatsoever, so if this is something that generally bothers you, I’ve got bad news for you. Then again, much like The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Age of Adalinewasn’t exactly based on a true story. Get over it.
Otherwise, the film is beautiful. It’s simple, easy to follow, not overly complicated with 80-something years of Adaline’s life baggage, and generally a pleasant way to spend an evening (or 5, in my case). On top of that, it’s got a stellar cast and it’s also pleasantly low on cheap unrealistic drama. The best way to describe it is probably to say that it’s soft around the edges. It’s not pushy or aggressive, and yet it somehow carries a nice message. And did I mention that it’s beautiful? And did I mention Huisman’s hair? [insert a dreamy sigh here]
Immortality has always been a complex subject to address.
On the one hand, there is the everlasting life of the person who, in most cases, didn’t choose this path but who is now stuck in this limbo, suspended in time. So, what now? Are they really doomed to be forever alone? But if the answer is no, do they have the right to mess up someone else’s life? Someone who will probably end up being nothing but a collateral damage in this situation. It’s like one huge grey area without rights or wrongs, and The Age of Adaline manages to create this exact atmosphere that makes the audience wonder what would they do had they faced a choice like this.
Overall, the film was sweet, but not overly so to make you feel like you’ve eaten a tub of cotton candy – the way I usually feel after watching the Nicholas Sparks stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised if the world forgot about The Age of Adaline entirely in a year or two. As for me, I’ll keep in my collection for the time being.