There’s a TV show I’m watching at the moment called Forever, starring Ioan Gruffudd as the lead character who cannot age. In each episode something happens to trigger his memory to a time in his past when a similar thing happened. Thus we learn a little about his character and it gives him a chance – in a knowing voice-over – to impart his wisdom on the strange things people do that shapes their lives.
It’s an easy watch, not too taxing and has a certain degree of charm. In the case of The Age of Adaline a similar flashback technique is regularly employed, but it tends to slow the whole story down to a plod at best, but let’s start, as most stories do, from the top.
We meet Adaline (Blake Lively) working in a library in modern-day San Francisco. We learn (through the first of many lethargic flashbacks) that she was in an accident decades ago which causes her not to age – and to avoid suspicion she keeps people at arm’s length and changes identity every ten years.
You know the message of the film before it’s even got going. If you continually push people away you’ll never really live, blah blah. To get her living life she meets handsome stranger Ellis Jones (Dutch actor Michiel Huisman, most recently seen as Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones) who eventually cracks her frosty exterior and forces her to make a choice – after much to-ing and fro-ing – to live and actually love.
But, like I say, you know all this. You’ll see it coming a mile away.
What you probably don’t count on is, halfway through, with the story heading the way we expect, we get treated to the pleasure of Harrison Ford turning up as Ellis’s dad, William. As things flag a little he gives everything a much needed lift and brings real warmth, gravitas and star power to proceedings.
In essence, he shows the youngsters how this acting lark is done.
As a lead, Blake Lively is perfectly fine. Nothing she does will really blow you away but it’s a solid performance. In terms of looks you can see why she was cast; there’s a sort of timeless beauty about her that fits well. I spent the film’s first third giving her a hard time, likening her to a poor woman’s Rosumund Pike (who would have been great), but Lively does get better as she goes on and I warmed to her eventually. Damning with faint praise you might say, but praise nonetheless.
Returning to my earlier point about TV; as a story this one is slight and doesn’t feel that cinematic. Plus the regular flashbacks – which work well in the episodic nature of the small screen – do grind things to a halt here, testing even the most patient moviegoer.
Take Forest Gump for example. A guy sits on a bench and tells his story and each flashback is a joy as his life was so varied and full of excitement. Plus Hanks really sells it.
The problem with Adaline is that her flashbacks all seem to be wistful, melancholy and full of remorse, which makes for a rather strained watch and she becomes difficult for the audience to like on any level.
The title of this blog, as some of you may have spotted, refers to the song by Queen in Highlander, a beautiful track that elevated a bit of a B-movie. Yet… even there the main character led an exciting life. And the flashbacks helped serve a dramatic story in the present. In The Age of Adaline her tale in the present day is just a straight up romance. C’mon guys, you need to mix it up a little.
So there you have it. A passable film with a reasonable cast and a bit of a wobbly concept. One to catch on a Sunday night but maybe skip at the cinema.