In the ramp-up to a spring and summer bursting with tent-pole franchise blockbusters (Avengers, Jurassic Park, Terminator, and that’s just scratching the surface), The Age of Adaline is an introspective romantic drama with the slightest sprinkling of science fiction. In other words, it’s perfect counterprogramming for all those dinosaurs, robots, and superheroes.
The eponymous Adaline Bowman (Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively) is born in 1908 in San Francisco and, in 1937, is involved in a near-fatal car accident, is subsequently struck by lightning, and, as a pseudo-science-y voiceover informs us, this series of events causes Adaline to cease aging. She’s able to get away with this for a while, but by 1953, Adaline is 45 and doesn’t look a day over 29, and people are starting to talk. When some shadowy government figures attempt to kidnap and experiment on Adaline, she flees, adopts a new name, and proceeds to spend the next 60 years changing her identity every decade.
Adaline is close to few people: her daughter, Flemming (Ellen Burstyn), who, in 2015, passes for her grandmother, her dog, and a blind friend who believes that Adaline has aged along with her. All this changes when Adaline meets Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) a dashing tech entrepreneur who falls hard for Adaline and charms her into returning his affections. When Adaline accompanies Ellis to his parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, she meets William Jones (Harrison Ford), a man from her past who instantly recognizes Adaline and puts her secret in jeopardy. After more than half a century of running, Adaline is finally going to have to come clean.
The success of this lovely and thoughtful drama relies heavily on Lively’s Adaline, and she is perfection in the role. Lively is wholly believable as an old woman who has seen a century trapped in a girl’s body. Her supporting cast execute themselves beautifully, but make no mistake, this is a star’s vehicle. In a season of movies aimed at adolescent boys, Lively proves she’s a movie star in a film made for adults.