A fascinating idea dissipates into romantic fluff
If only you could stay in your 20s forever, eh? Here’s a question. If you were immortal, would your life become a collection of happy moments or sad moments? The Age of Adaline asks: Could immortality be a curse disguised as a boon? Adaline (Blake Lively) herself says, “What’s the point of falling in love if you can’t grow old together?”
All is well until Adaline turns 29 and meets with an accident. The universe (snowfall, a random streak of lightning, etc) somehow conspires to alter her body into never aging. A narrator tells you that the science behind her agelessness would be discovered later in 2035 as the Von Lehman’s Principle of Electron Compression on Deoxyribonucleic Acid. Why this pseudo-science? It’s, after all, a fantasy film. Just saying, “Presto! She stopped ageing” would have been good enough.
At the end of Interstellar , when the young Cooper meets his aged daughter, I wished more time had been spent on revealing the changed dynamics between them. This film partly fulfils that need by showing the nature of interactions between the 29-year-old Adaline and her wizened daughter Flemming (Ellen Burstyn). I wish though that the film had delved into Adaline’s reactions after discovering she wasn’t aging. Was she elated? Was she scared? Shocked? You are simply shown how she’s protecting herself from being turned into “a specimen”.
It’s all quite interesting though. Adaline talks more than four languages fluently and knows the routes of the city better than taxi drivers. What else are you to do when you have all the time in the world, literally? There’s even a scene where she channels her inner Sherlock Holmes by making conclusions about a stranger based on paint marks on his fingers and the make of his watch.
Can you imagine the total lack of surprise that’d be part of such a person’s life? When somebody comes on to Adaline with a pick-up line, she smiles contemptuously. She’s heard it before, of course. The only way to win her attention, let alone admiration, would be to surprise her, to thrill her, as Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) later does. He challenges her with terrible jokes.
He forces his presence on her, and refuses to let her curtness cow him down. He takes her to places she’s never seen before — and that’s quite something. There’s a great moment when he’s coaxing her to drink more.
He uses the Italian proverb — Anni e bicchieri di vino non si contano mai — which roughly translates to “Age and glasses of wine should never be counted”. Adaline, who has learned to never trust anybody with the truth about her agelessness, simply says, “Oh, if only you knew.”
I enjoyed these little, mischievous and unpredictable moments.
Where was this film heading? An hour in, I still couldn’t tell. But then, despite a great cameo by Harrison Ford as Ellis’ father, The Age of Adaline quickly tapers off into a regular rom-com. The deus ex machina at the end ruins it all further and the convenient end leaves a bitter aftertaste.
I liked The Age of Adaline when much wasn’t happening— when she’s simply strolling and just being; when she’s looking at a park bench and remembering a 50-year-old memory and shedding a tear; when she’s looking at news and remembering an old tragedy that she was part of; when she’s looking at all her old pictures of King Charles spaniels.
That’s when it really hits you — the loneliness of immortality, the vacuousness of permanence, the tragedy of seeing things come into existence and wither away.
How wonderful it would be to just be a meditative spectator of such an extraordinary woman going about her banal life. What it’d be to have somebody treat such a subject like perhaps a Koyaanisqatsi?