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Film review: The Age of Adaline ***

By Alexia Evripidou

The Age of Adaline was an enjoyable surprise. Over the years, the cynic in me has grown tired of formulaic love stories. But with a relatively original plot and seamless editing, the film managed to sprinkle a little fairy dust over the exhausted genre and offered up a romantic, moving and deliciously melancholic film.

I’ll go as far as to say The Age of Adaline is a beautiful and heart warming love / drama/ science fiction story, using smarter lines with fewer clichés than its other relatives. The movie stars Blake Lively, whom I found both an interesting and refreshing choice of casting. Many have discussed that it was only a matter of time before Lively would land a meaty Hollywood role and indeed in this film, she is the star that the film comfortably hangs itself off.

Lively gives a great performance as a wistful Adaline Bowman who following a car accident can never age a day. Lively has an unusual screen presence in that she’s not so bold to swamp the screen, nor too timid to be ignored. She is both warm and simultaneously cool.

Her performance, like her screen presence, is subtle but inviting, measured but emotional and always elegantly beautiful. She gives a sense of comfort, longing and charm to her character, if not a little emotional shallowness, which in this case, is not a bad trait. The film as a whole has a romantic dreaminess to it, which demands that you follow its beautiful cinematography and flowing editing on its magical and romantic journey. Just leave cynicism at home.

Adaline, who was born at the turn of 20th century, faces a potential eternity of youth. Soon enough, her situation begins to draw too much interest from authorities and science. Deciding she does not want to become a research project, she packs her bags and hits the road, changing her name, residence and identity every ten years. This presents many painful challenges for Adaline, forced to keep her secret between her and her ageing daughter Flemming (Ellen Burstyn.) It’s a heavy burden resulting in decades of solitude and loneliness; however, it keeps them safe.

One fine day, Adaline’s reality gets rocked when she meets Ellis Jones (Michiel Huismen), the charming philanthropist and love interest. Adaline had managed solitude for nearly eight decades bar one slip up, and now her long suppressed passion for life and love is reawakened.

As she is unable to avoid Jones’ advances, Adaline agrees to a weekend at his parents’ home to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. This threatens to expose her secret and she is faced with a serious decision that will affect everyone’s life.

Age of Adaline evokes nostalgic memories of romances that once were. With its gentle voice over narration, beautiful clothes, hair, vintage cars and other period memorabilia, the film portrays romance with ease. Even the scientific explanation to the absurdity of Adaline’s situation, when narrated in that soft fairy tale voice makes anything seem possible. It very much had a Walt Disney feel to the story telling. Also, like many Disney stories, there is a strong female lead, which will be remembered in film history. Managing to create a romantic fantasy is not an easy fare, however Krieger has achieved it in this beautifully melancholic melodrama.

The film also offers a touching performance by veteran actor Harrison Ford as Ellis’ dad William. Although it’s always a pleasure watching Ford in action films, it was restorative to see him playing a dramatic role, giving a deep and sensitive performance. Ford’s entrance into the movie helped give the film depth, which it otherwise lacked. His character and performance gave the unrealistic narrative grounding and allowed the audience to connect with the sorrow of the characters’ journeys, at very least with Ford’s, but as a result of which, helped bind the story together.

One of the most enjoyable parts of this film was the absence of cheesy romantic moments and lines. Obviously you can’t have a love film without some soppiness but generally both Adaline and Ellis connected through wit, conversation and intelligence, as well as chemistry.

The dialogue between them was interesting and there were some great lines. Just as Adaline is about to cave and accept Ellis’ kiss, she says “tell me something that I can hold on to forever and ever and never let go” he replies “let go.”

DIRECTED BY Lee Toland Krieger
STARRING Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford
US 2015 110 mins

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