Blake Lively is captivating as Adaline, a 29-year-old who survives a near-death experience and from that day on, never grows older. Adaline guards her secret and her heart for eight decades until a charming philanthropist (Michiel Huisman) and his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) force Adaline to confront her destiny in this unforgettable tale about the timeless power of love.
The whimsical matter-of-fact narration of 'The Age of Adaline' reminded me of one of my favorite canceled-too-soon television shows, 'Pushing Daisies.' Usually, when a movie turns over the important details of backstory to an omniscient narrator it can come off as corny or lazy. However, that isn't the case here. The narrator provides an unwavering voice of reason, explaining the science fiction elements of the story as succinct, factual events. I treats the subject matter with reverence, which makes questioning the absurdity of the story absurd in its own right.
Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) is immortal. After a freak superhero-like accident involving a car crash, freezing water, and a well-placed bolt of lightning – which is richly explained by the aforementioned narrator – Adaline finds herself unable to age. The narrator shortly explains that the science behind Adaline's condition won't be discovered until 2035.
In a split second Adaline attains agelessness, which might seem to most like a miracle. Born in 1908, Adaline's youthful beauty stays with her well into her 40s and beyond. People become suspicious, especially when her daughter begins to look exactly like her in terms of age and beauty. For fear of becoming a scientific guinea pig to be prodded and poked Adaline vows to move every decade, or so, in order to avoid suspicion about her unchanging appearance. Her predicament appears to be an infinite one, so she's created an elaborate scheme to remain undetected.
The narrative skips around throughout Adaline's 106-year timeline pinpointing life-altering events that have molded her into the person she is now. Much of the movie is set in the present day, as Adaline grapples with another love interest – she's had so many over the years, and the heartbreak has always been the same.
We soon become acquainted with Adaline's unending grief when we see her photo album filled with each and every King James spaniel she's had during her life. She keeps getting them, and they keep dying from old age. It's a stark way to elucidate the constant misery Adaline must face given her condition.
Ellis (Michiel Huisman) is a handsome and wealthy (aren't they all?) entrepreneur who just so happened to catch Adaline's eye at her 106th New Year's Eve party. Adaline tries keeping a safe distance, but if we've learned anything from romantic movies it's that the more stalker-ish a man gets the more chance he has of eventually winning the woman over. Now, Ellis is a well-meaning bloke. He isn't as insistent or as obtuse as, say, Christian Gray, but he still comes off as a tad creepy in his unwavering insistence to not take no as an answer.
Despite what appears on the surface as a lightly hokey romance drama; and disregarding Ellis' initial weirdo vibe, 'The Age of Adaline' manages a rather intriguing story with commendable restraint. There's room to wonder if Adaline had it too good becoming immortal at the youthful age of 29 and being able to skate through the tumultuous Civil Rights movement growing up beautiful and white during the '60s. Adaline's life is curiously devoid of extraneous factors that might affect someone's worldview. Though, giving up a daughter in order to keep her secret is indeed heartbreaking stuff.
In a strange happenstance of casting Adaline's now elderly daughter is played by Ellen Burstyn, who happens to be the same actress who portrayed Coop's elderly daughter in 'Interstellar.' She's in danger of being typecast as the daughter who ages faster than her parents.
Blake Lively's performance is an interesting one. Perhaps this is the perfect role for her. She guards each line of dialogue with an intentional, or unintentional, melancholy (I honestly couldn't tell which). She has this wispy hypnotic tone lacking emotion that works well for a character who is trying her best to be unmemorable.
'The Age of Adaline' might be silly and melodramatic, but I'd be lying if I said I was bored. It's shot beautifully, and its narrative is oddly comforting. Maybe I was lulled into a false sense of acceptance, or perhaps it's a fairly solid romantic story. Either way, I found it mostly enjoyable and not the least bit ridiculous. OK, maybe it's a little ridiculous, but still.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a 2-disc set with a DVD and a 50GB Blu-ray. It comes with a UltraViolet Digital Copy and an iTunes Digital Copy. There is a slipcover included.
The 1080p transfer offers David Lanzenberg's wonderful cinematography a place to shine. Shot digitally, 'The Age of Adaline' doesn't look it. Instead it looks quite cinematic, offering up a beautifully detailed image that never wavers in quality or consistency.
There's little, if anything at all, to quibble about here. The visuals are quite stunning most of the time. The lavishness of the set decoration shines through with the fine detail provided. Close ups are full of expected high-def details such as individual facial hairs, pores, fabric textures, and so on. Dark scenes are dark and inky, banding is non-existent. Shadows are deep, but they never obfuscate the detail on screen.
Colors are deep and rich. Clarity is phenomenal. There is one CGI shot of the Golden Gate Bridge being built that looks a little strange (I couldn't tell if aliasing was happening, or if it was supposed to look that way as the camera panned), but that's the only moment in the entire presentation that I found iffy. Save for that split-second shot, the rest of the presentation is gorgeous.
Lionsgate has paired 'The Age of Adaline' with a Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1) mix that sounds amazing. Really. Considering that this is a drama you'd think that you'd be dealing with a front-heavy mix that doesn't make a lot of use out of the surround channels. You'd be wrong.
This mix is entirely immersive. Yes, it does get talk-heavy from time to time, but that's balanced out with some great scenes that provide more than their fair share of audio pyrotechnics. The sub-woofer gets a workout during the lightning strike scene. There's a rain storm that fills each channel with lifelike rain, pounding around you like you're standing in the middle of a rain shower and somehow not getting wet.
The dialogue is always clear. Whispers too. The surround channels are full of all sorts of ambient sound that really brings the whole mix together. For a romantic drama 'The Age of Adaline' certainly has some tricks up its sleeve in the audio department.
Audio Commentary – Director Lee Toland Krieger provides the commentary here. This is one of the more insightful commentaries. Krieger goes into depth about shooting and the technicalities of it. He also has a lot of anecdotal stories to share, which make the commentary one to listen to if you're a fan of the movie.
A Love Story for the Ages (HD, 30 min.) – More than just an EPK-like featurette, “A Love Story for the Ages” does a good job at covering the movie making process in detail, and provides enough behind the scenes stuff to be worth a watch.
Style Throughout the Ages (HD, 18 min.) – As with any period piece, or movie that integrates different time periods, it's an obligation to have a special feature about the costume and production design.
Discovering Young Harrison Ford: Anthony Ingruber (HD, 8 min.) – This is a short featurette about the actor they found who looks like and acts like Harrison Ford. He imitates the actor's mannerisms in a few flashback sequences.
There's something about its cosmic whimsy that grabbed me. I'm certainly not one to discount the power of sentimentality when applied with care, and I felt 'The Age of Adaline' did just that. As far as schmaltzy romantic dramas go, you could do a lot worse. Not to mention the fact that this Blu-ray is definitely demo material in both audio and video presentations. There are some great scenes that will showcase your home theater. Recommended.