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The Age of Adaline

A somewhat timeless love story about a protagonist who never ages.
By Sarah Ward
April 26, 2015
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By Sarah Ward
April 26, 2015
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When a Gossip Girl leaves the world of backstabbing teen chatter behind, she becomes an ageless woman. Well, at least, that's the path Blake Lively has taken. After flirting with a few supporting film roles around the television series that made her famous, she has found a star vehicle.

It feels fitting that Lively plays Adaline Bowman, a character most notable for continuing to look strikingly youthful even as the years pass. That's the type of obvious film The Age of Adaline is as it tells a lovesick tale of a long life half lived. Even when heavy-handed narration is explaining the movie's gimmick through cosmic forces and lightning strikes (yes, really), it takes the most earnest path.

Adaline was born in 1908, growing from a child into an adult in an unremarkable fashion. She marries, becomes a mother and then a widow, before an unusually snowy evening sees her car veer off the road. After the accident, she's inexplicably trapped at the age of 29 and immune to the ravages of time. As the decades roll by, Adaline changes her identity and moves around to avoid arousing suspicion, with only her daughter, Flemming (first played by Cate Richardson, and then by Ellen Burstyn), aware of her secret.

A celebration of eternal youth, this is not, with the film taking a more dramatic approach to remaining young in appearance but getting older in the heart. The Age of Adaline is a gentle story of sacrifice and yearning told as such, gliding slowly by as it recounts Adaline's fate. It's also a sentimental account of the power and necessity of love, as her lonely life is changed on the eve of her 107th birthday. That's when she meets philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman), his instantly smitten perseverance threatening to crack through her time-hardened shell.

Cue the kind of sweeping, star-crossed romance typically relegated to the cheesiest, sappiest movies, though much better made, more genuine in its emotions, and with stronger-written characters here. The usual suspension of disbelief is required, and the standard complications arise, involving reconciling the past with the future.

It's a considerable change of pace for director Lee Toland Krieger, making his first feature after his breakout hit Celeste & Jesse Forever; however, he never flounders in such drastically different territory. Indeed, he takes to telling a leisurely love story with elegance and enthusiasm, never more so than in his affectionate eye for period details. From the costumes to the sets, this is a movie as handsome as it is unashamedly heartfelt.

As for Lively, she may be the star of The Age of Adaline, looking the part and acting suitably restrained, but she's far from the film's shining light. Instead, that honour goes to Huisman, ramping up his Game of Thrones charm to maximum levels. Though he shows up late in the game, Harrison Ford also does well as a blast from Adaline's past. They're exactly the kind of modest highlights that help the movie stick together so well, making something that could've been silly surprisingly sincere from start to finish — and somewhat timeless, too, as far as old-fashioned fantasies are concerned.

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