Director Lee Toland Krieger’s latest picture has an interesting premise: a woman trapped at the age of 27 cursed with immortality, a goldmine for stories you’d think… but apparently not. The Age of Adaline trips at the first hurdle, only finding its footing half way through its two hour run time.
Adaline begins with a documentary-esque explanation as to how the titular character became ageless. While known from the outset that this film would contain fantastical elements considering its plot, we are told to believe that Adaline’s immortality can be scientifically explained, albeit by a theory created twenty years from now. If this wasn’t farcical enough even for fiction, the accompanying narration explains the events of Adaline’s crash, step by step, until her moment of becoming immortal is not just absurd, but also incredibly irritating.
Yet this is not the most infuriating part of the film, though still second only to the very similar event that takes place towards the denouement involving a defibrillator. One is simply left to think that if all it takes to become immortal are a few snowflakes and a defibrillator, how is the world of The Age of Adaline not overpopulated by eternals? Usually, a film containing any element of magical realism wouldn’t elicit such issues, but when the writers try to explain immortality via seemingly serious scientific means, the fantasy is removed and it enters into the realm of stupidity.
But surely a romantic fantasy drama about an immortal woman trying to find love in a world inhabited by mortals can’t be completely dull? The Age of Adaline spends its first hour or so breezing over the protagonist’s previous encounters with men whilst making the only noticeably strong relationship in the film between her and her pet dog. For an unbeknownst reason, the filmmakers fail to tackle Adaline’s emotional response to becoming immortal; we see no tears, we see no moment of realisation that she is going to sadly outlive her daughter.
Instead we are led to believe that Adaline, frozen at the age of 27, is completely happy with the thought of living a lonely life forever and is more than happy to say goodbye to all of her friends and occasional lovers as she moves from city to city changing her alias. Emotionless in parts, the high concept premise is not aided by this lack of feeling, leaving an aura of numbness to circulate the film’s unsentimental atmosphere.
We are introduced to one of Adaline’s friends in the early in the film, a blind musician who can’t see her unchanged appearance; this only serves to waste time since the character is completely retired soon after she is introduced. Then, Adaline’s first encounter with love interest Ellis Jones (played by Michiel Huisman) plays out in a similar way. At no point does it seem like their relationship progresses. In stalling the romance, the film only manages to decelerate the storyline and become somewhat disengaging. However, it is at the halfway point when Adaline is invited to meet Ellis’ family that the feature shows a slight spark of what it could have been throughout, even if some of its hindrances linger.
With a supporting cast of Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker and Harrison Ford, hopes were high, mainly due to Ford’s part to play. Age of Adaline‘s trailers made the impression that his character William Jones (father to Adaline’s boyfriend and her past love interest/nearly husband), was as instrumental as Adaline. Unfortunately, William only serves to make proceedings diabolically weird. At one stage, he begs his previous love to stay with his son Ellis even after finding out that she is an immortal heartbreaker who stood him up 40 years ago, leaving an essence of outlandish sitcomical humour or Jeremy Kyle style drama; whichever is worse.
The Age of Adaline trips at the first hurdle, only finding its footing half way through its two hour run time
Ford by no means does a bad job in the acting department though; in fact, his admirable performance is a highlight of the film despite his peculiar character. The moment in which he is reintroduced to Adaline and correctly mistakes Adaline for Adaline is very well done. The scene is purposefully a bit awkward, but the way he portrays his character, especially in this instance, is expertly done. Alas, Ford still does a good job with the material given, and for that, he ought to be thanked by the cast and crew for making the viewing experience pleasant, if only in small pieces.
Blake Lively on the other hand is not quite as impressive. Recycled is her “tortured by the past” character from Gossip Girl, just updated to be relevant to an adult crowd, but a painful array of poorly delivered lines spewed out make her performance an unexciting one.
Michiel Huisman fits his part fairly well. We’ve seen him as a warrior/womaniser in Game of Thrones and he seems to fare well as the heartthrob here, complete with an obligatory shirtless scene and some smile-worthy jokes. However, he also isn’t perfect, but this is not down to his ability as an actor. At times, Ellis treads the line between romantic and creepy very closely, making the very one-sided nature of an already unbelievable relationship between he and Adaline even more difficult to connect with, a problem stemming from the screenplay rather than Huisman’s approach to the role.
With a convincing cast, especially the inclusion of Harrison Ford, the biggest mistake of The Age of Adaline is its misuse and mishandling of its own premise. There are so many ways of approaching a film about an immortal woman trying to find “the one”, but the poor pacing, odd characterisations and overly outlandish storytelling just do not work very well. If you are looking for a film about an immortal trying to find a way of ending their loneliness and finding mortality, along with a more convincing representation of love, Highlander (1986) is much worthier of your time.
Writer and Editor for the Film & TV section of Impact, Bharat is a keen previewer, reviewer and sometimes just viewer, of all things cinematic and televisual, with a particular passion for biographical pictures, adaptations and sitcoms.