It is somewhat amazing how Hollywood finds new ways of keeping the cheesy old romantic melodrama alive. But if you have lost a relative or personal friend to death recently, the idea of eternal life seems like an intriguing fantasy. Consequently, writer/director Lee Toland Krieger’s The Age of Adeline has an almost indescribable visceral appeal. The film details the life of a woman born in 1908, who after surviving a near-fatal car accident in the late 1930s remains ageless, at 29 years old.
In fact The Age of Adeline feels rather old-fashioned, and is mysteriously reminiscent of the 1940s melodramas about troubled women, like Laura or Leave Her to Heaven, which both starred the lovely, but fairly limited Gene Tierney. Blake Lively (another attractive screen star with limited acting talent) stars as Adeline Bowman, a modern day female Dorian Grey of sorts; she’s lived eternally for nearly 80 years as a youthful looking, yet troubled, archive librarian, who seems to change her identity with a new alias and relocating every decade.
Once happily married, Adeline becomes widowed with her young daughter when her engineer husband dies in an accident during the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. As the film’s story begins in 2014, she attends a New Year’s Eve party where she meets an attractive wealthy philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), who thinks she’s God’s gift to him. Slowly they develop a romance, but Adeline, now called Jennifer Lawson, remains discretely private about her past.
Based on a screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz, Krieger uses lots of simplistic mystical narrative and fantastic scientific explanations to justify how Adeline survives a fatal accident to stay eternally young. Then in layers of narrative twists and turns, Krieger moves their tale through the decades as the paranoid Adeline runs from various legal agencies that want to find out more about her. As her daughter gets older, Adeline is unwilling to involve her offspring’s life in her personal turmoil and so they live apart. But now for Jennifer/Adeline, the incredibly handsome Ellis seems like the man worthy of her love and she reveals more about herself. These plans become altered when she and Ellis attend his parents’ anniversary party and the elder Mr. William Jones (Harrison Ford) recognizes Adeline from his past.
Despite such coincidences the film maintains audience interest. Lively’s performance is engaging, if not entirely profound or complex, for someone who should have more wisdom for her century of living. Huisman’s Ellis, who younger audiences and television fans know as Daario Naharis from The Game of Thrones, and Cal from Orphan Black, delivers a mostly one dimensional charmer, but genuine romantic counterpart.
The film really becomes most interesting when the cast’s veteran co-stars make their limited appearances. Ford is emotionally compelling in the non-flashy role of Williams Jones, a man who realizes Adeline is in fact the same woman he shared love for years before, when he was in med school. In addition, the 82 year old, always fascinating and elegant Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) plays Adeline’s daughter, Flemming. Burstyn’s chemistry with Lively is heartfelt and oddly effective. She simply wants to see her mother happy, as she persuades her to finally let her past go and experience love.
Like Krieger’s previous film, the 2012 Celeste & Jesse Forever, in The Age of Adeline, he shows a definite knack for romance.