Romantic dramas are such a rare breed in today’s cinema that when one comes along fans of the genre are usually willing to overlook some imperfections. This should be the case with “The Age of Adaline,” starring Blake Lively as a girl struck by lightning in her 20s who from that point forward does not age. Endless youth wouldn’t seem like a problem for any of us—still, please don’t get any ideas about standing on a golf course during a thunderstorm with a 1 iron lifted to the sky—but the film makes a good, gentle case that such a condition would create havoc in your personal life. When your daughter starts looking noticeably older than her mother, in this case played beautifully by Ellen Burstyn, people will talk.
“Good genes” as a catch-all explanation can only go so far.
Born near the turn of the century, Adaline (Lively) lives a quiet life, gets married and has a child. But in 1933, a too-meticulously-detailed accident miraculously stops her aging process. Determined to not have to explain her unexplainable condition to anyone she must live an itinerant lifestyle, changing her identity constantly and deciding not to form close relationships with anyone. If the premise is a little science-fiction-y, at least the film has the courage to play it straight. For her part, the lovely Lively at first seems too subdued, perhaps even little detached, but this choice works in her favor as the film progresses and we become more convinced of the trap that maintaining such a secret requires. The set design, traversing over eight decades, is gorgeous.
The film has two plot turns that prove inspired. Of course, it isn’t much of a surprise when Adaline begins to fall for the hunky, charismatic philanthropist Ellis (Dutch pop singer Michiel Huisman from “Wild”) after as clichéd a meet-cute locale you can get: a hotel elevator. Ellis proves to be more interesting than he appears at first blush. When he introduces Adaline to his parents, his father (Harrison Ford) is stunned by Adaline’s resemblance to a girl he once knew. His reaction here and how he handles the complexities of the situation is classic Ford. The film immediately moves into more credible territory and one scene involving Ford and his wife (Kathy Baker) is particularly moving.
Young director Lee Toland Krieger handles both the material and the actors well. Avoiding heavy sentiment, the film allows a talented cast to keep the material warmly affecting without being the least bit shallow or contrived. It’s a problem that affects too many romance-based films—Nicholas Sparks adaptations we’re looking at you! “The Age of Adaline” is an unassuming yet sweet-natured little film that parents can actually enjoy with their children, and these days that’s a rare joy to behold.
Rated PG-13 (for suggestive comment)