A refreshingly good movie. It’s almost unheard of these days. This pseudo-fantasy tells of a woman immortal by chance, learning to value life and love again when she had almost given up on them.
The story follows Adaline Bowman a woman who in an accident at the age of 29 stopped aging. Now at 107 she is preparing to move from her previous identity to a new one (as in the 50’s the government did notice a woman who doesn’t age and ever since Adaline has been hiding to keep from being a science experiment). But just as she’s about to shed one identity and adopt a new one a new man comes into her life. Luckily for Adaline, Ellis Jones does not give up on her attempt to put him off and she begins to fall in love with him. We soon learn that Ellis is only the second time she has allowed herself to fall in love since she realized her condition, the first being Ellis’ father, William, by coincidence or fate…really it’s fate, I can’t go into why without spoilers, but the movie makes it quite clear that nothing happens without purpose. The fact that she had run out on William because she couldn’t stand the idea of being in a relationship that was doomed to her staying young while her beloved aged and died in front of her does haunt her. And it haunts her even more when confronted not only with her feelings about Ellis, but being brought to meet the parents just as she was starting to consider letting herself fall for Ellis.
This is the rare movie that doesn’t just treat love in the somewhat dim and schmaltzy way of a Nicholas Sparks story, but a mature concept with consequences. And along with last year’s Winter’s Tale seems to understand that idea… that love is tied to large concepts of the universe (again not in a childish or simplistic way). This turns what might just be a good date movie (and it is, we have so few of those these days) into a movie with some depth that will make multiple viewing worth it.
Blake Lively carries the film quite well, convincingly playing a woman far beyond the years her looks would suggests, and I hope this signals her becoming more of a presence on film in movies of some worth.* I’ll be honest despite some of the names of the rest of the cast (Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn) none of the other parts really stand out—not that they do a bad job, but nothing screams that this is the performance of their career.
One spoiler I’ll give here is that at one point Adaline’s dog dies. Usually I find having a dog die in a film is one of the cheapest ways to pull on the audience’s heart strings. It’s usually lazy writing…however in this case it served more of a purpose in that it is shown not just in the context of this one pet but in a line of dogs over her whole life bringing home the sad fact that she will outlive everyone she loves as a harsh truth.
If it has one flaw is that it has a flashback scene to when Adaline knew a younger version of Harrison Ford’s character. The problem with trying to cast a young Harrison Ford is that we all know what Harrison Ford looked like when he was younger…If Ford was a lesser known actor the actor they got to play the younger version might have been okay, but as it is you’ll be sitting there thinking, That doesn’t look like Han Solo. It does work to undo the suspension of disbelief a little, but not enough to ruin the film.
4 out of 5.
*She did an excellent job in The Town as well, but we probably all forgot about it in between all the other great performances of that film.