A narrator helps guides us through this tale of magic(science?) and lost love. He explains how a series of miraculous events makes Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) immune to the ravages of time and aging. When various authorities begin to question her records (she looks decades younger than her license says she is) Adaline begins a life on the run. For sixty years she avoids all bonds, changes her name, appearance, and location each and every decade. While she does use her time to learn a variety of skills, languages, and trivial knowledge,she never truly lives her life. In her mind, love and friendship are to be avoided. Adaline even forsakes her own daughter and misses the better years of her life.
These choices are meant to evoke a sense of pity in us for Adaline and her plight, but instead her logic seems flawed and her biggest pains are self inflicted. At one point she tells her daughter that “without the prospect of growing old, love is just heartbreak.” What?? If that’s the case, how can she love her daughter? (or her dog?) Many times she remarks that life is short, but she doesn’t heed her own advice. No one knows how long they have left on Earth, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from experiencing life to the fullest, and life is fullest when we have a positive effect on others, whether it be from friendship or intimacy. In retrospect, Adaline’s choices have left a swath of pain and heartbreak.
One New Years, on one of her many birthday’s, she meets Ellis (Michiel Huisman), the one man, (or perhaps second?) who could make her re-think her self imposed exile. While as a whole, the film is very good looking, but this particular introduction seems lifted directly from a Heineken commercial. As with all these stories, Ellis isn’t your average dude, but instead a millionaire philanthropist. (and he doesn’t fight crime at night in a mask! Bonus!) Like many before him, Ellis is intoxicated by this old soul that inhabits such a stunning young body. Eventually he cracks her hardened heart and they spend a weekend at his parent’s home. Finally, the film shines. Avoid the trailer and you will be surprised by the actor that suddenly shows up and delivers such a moving performance that the film magically develops an emotional center. As an audience we finally FEEL something, instead of just following along with the bland dialogue. Without this particular actor, character, and turn events, the entire film would be a throwaway. Instead we have a character we can identify with and Adaline is finally faced with the repercussions of her life and choices.
“Age of Adaline” is an odd film. It looks great, misses the mark a number of times until near the end where it nails it, and also expects us to buy into the heroine’s flawed logic. How someone so wise could be so foolish escapes us, but it goes to show that no matter how old you are, there’s always more to learn.