**1/2 out of ****
The Age of Adaline is a romantic fantasy, where the beautiful title character (Blake Lively) has a secret: She hasn’t aged a day since a bizarre accident in 1930s. After her condition attracted the interest of government agents in the fifties, Adaline went into hiding, beginning a process of starting anew every decade – only informing her aging daughter (Ellen Burstyn) as to her identity and whereabouts.
Adaline makes friends carefully, and doesn’t make strong emotional attachments. Every romance has resulted in her heartbreaking decision to move on, unwilling to risk the possibility of her condition being rediscovered by curious authorities. In present-day San Francisco, she has just met a wonderful man (Michiel Huisman) for whom she gradually falls –with resistance. Once again torn between keeping a secret and having love in her life, she makes a discovery about the young man, which re-opens an old chapter of her past.
A good chunk of the film finds itself taking place at a weekend visit to a house in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, involving a performance by Harrison Ford, which is so surprisingly emotional, I found myself wishing the entire story had been told from his perspective.
Director Lee Toland Krieger creates a generally pleasant tone with his cinematographer, David Lanzenberg, who captures vistas gorgeously. Blake Lively also does wonders working with such a vaguely defined character, bringing subtle hints of a troubled old soul beneath a young modern beauty. Sadly, the magical realism concept doesn’t manage to gain much substance.
However, in an attempt to do so, it misfires through the seldom use of third-person voice-over narration, which needlessly tries to justify the magic in the film with pseudo-scientific explanations. I don’t care if it seems like I’m watching “Cosmos.” My eyes are still rolling.
Just as Adaline is torn between love and safety, I’m torn between congratulating a watchable melodrama and scolding it for being so superficial. I happen to love The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for which The Age of Adaline will surely be compared. Adaline is thankfully shorter, simpler and is not based on any previously written material; but it shortchanges us on the beauty of a journey through life and gives us a pandering story about cosmic forces guiding lovers to one another.
Side Note: Isn’t it unusual that Ellen Burstyn is playing a woman who ages faster than her parent only months after she did the same thing in "Interstellar”?