Age of Adaline
Christian Movie Review
King Solomon wrote these words that became one of the most famous verses from the Bible.
But what if there wasn’t a time for everything? What if there wasn’t a season for every activity under the heavens? What if there wasn’t a time to die?
That is Adaline Bowman’s life — or, half-life, rather. She doesn’t age. No seasons of life. Every love she has ever known has ended in heartbreak. The cold, hard truth of her immortality — always in stark contrast to the mortality of those she tries to love — inevitably wakes her from her dream land of romance, and she must repeat to herself the sad mantra of her existence: You will never grow old with anyone. You will never share in the seasons of life with a companion. Why break their hearts like that? It is better if you just run away.
And so she runs.
That’s all I will say about the plot — nothing more than what the trailer would already tell you, so no spoilers.
I will, however, say three things, no, four — no FIVE things — that you absolutely must know — right now — about this film, before I move on with the rest of the review:
1. If you have even a hint of nostalgia in your soul — or even just a predisposition in your personality to easily become nostalgic — when you walk into the theater, this film will draw every fount of nostalgia out of your heart, and then drench you with it like Niagara Falls. So, all of you nostalgic folk out there: bring your umbrella and your raincoat (and some tissues).
2. It is a beautifully shot, haunting, heart-wrenching traditional fairy tale disguised as a modern high concept romance.
3. It might be Harrison Ford’s best dramatic performance since 1993’s “The Fugitive.” He’s not the male lead in “Age of Adaline,” but Harrison Ford is to the “Supporting Actor” job as Tom Brady is to football: he does his job perfectly, and he single-handedly raises the movie to another level.
4. Blake Lively as Adaline. Wow. She does her job so well that, frankly, I began to wonder if maybe Lively really is a very old soul trapped in a 29-year-old’s body.
5. Immortality, at least in this fallen world, wouldn’t necessarily be something you would want to experience. The whole world wants the fountain of youth — one doctor is even claiming he can achieve immortality now (that story is for another day) — but do they really know what they’re asking for? In Adaline’s case, immortality becomes an ever-expanding ghost town that she can never escape — a diffuse, eternal melancholy that she must wear like an unseen widow’s veil everywhere she goes. Why? Because she is totally alone. Her immortality separates her from normal human life as effectively as a quarantine room. And nobody can see it.
It’s a fascinating film.
I’ll dive into the review in more detail, but first let’s take a quick look at any parental guidance issues (in case you’re thinking of taking the family to see this PG-13 film).
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality/Romance: A couple begins to date, and then they promptly begin sleeping with each other. One fade-out-after-the-kissing implied sex scene. No nudity in this film. Other scenes show the dating couple sitting in bed together. A female character wears a revealing dress in a couple scenes.
Violence/Gore: Car crashes are depicted in the film, but there is no graphic gore. A woman cuts her hand on a branch while hiking, and her companion stitches it up for her. We see a close up of the thread being sewn into her skin.
Language: No f-words. A few scattered obscenities (a few d-words, for example).
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Characters drink alcohol in social settings throughout the film.
Frightening/Emotionally Intense Content: The car crash scenes are intense, but quick editing and a calming voice-over dulls the effect. A character’s dog is found sick and dies.
Squeamish Content: The sewing-the-gash-on-the-hand scene might make a few people squeamish if they’re extra sensitive to that kind of stuff. (Didn’t really bother me though.)
(Review continues below)
Please Support Our Affiliates!
“…immortality becomes an ever-expanding ghost town that she can never escape — a diffuse, eternal melancholy that she must wear like an unseen widow’s veil everywhere she goes. Why? Because she is totally alone. Her immortality separates her from normal human life as effectively as a quarantine room. And nobody can see it.”
Entertainment Value and Film Craft
As stated in the intro, the film is beautifully made. It feels, looks, sounds like an antique, handmade music box. It has a charming, bluish silver melancholy sheen to everything. Much of the film takes place beneath the shiny silver cover of San Francisco-just-after-it’s-rained and brisk Northern California weather — though the film jumps around all over the country (and the world, in one case).
And Adaline (Blake Lively) conveys such aloof contradiction: in her face we read storms of emotion that, through decades of practice, have been mastered and controlled — just barely; and I mean contrasting emotions like tenderness and iciness, joy and inconsolable sadness, stand-offishness and childlike yearning for companionship.
Harrison Ford becomes a lightning rod with his performance. He becomes a symbol. He channels all the pent up nostalgia — purposefully suppressed by Adaline’s protectiveness and by the cold, factual detachment of the narrator who has a major presence throughout the film — and Ford just lights it up. He unleashes the full strength of the film’s nostalgic power and makes us feel the story just as powerfully from a different character’s point of view as how we feel it from Adaline’s point of view.
Bravo, Harrison Ford. Truly. Well done.
And Michiel Huisman is the perfect anti-Adaline: he’s fearless about pursuing love, careless with his heart, bold and aggressive to make connections with other souls, and runs toward his heart’s desire instead of fleeing from it.
Worldview/Themes of Redemption
Wow. This section — the one in which I usually discuss the film’s subtext (or attempt to) or the film’s obviously symbolic content (if there is any) and draw conclusions about worldviews and redemption stories unearthed from the movie — could become an article by itself in the case of “The Age of Adaline.”
Where do I begin? There are so many: a deeply serious, moving allegory of the grown-ups-who-refuse-to-grow-up trend in our culture and a warning that we should not idolize our years of youth as the end-all, be-all of life? Maybe.
A traditional fairy tale about true love, carefully disguised in 20th century American nostalgia? Absolutely.
A warning that we should stop our pop culture’s obsession with being young, looking young, and acting young? Perhaps. For example, how many people have you heard describe their high school or college years as the “best years of their lives?” This film gives some good reasons for ascribing more value to the seasons of growing old.
But there’s something else that really struck me in this movie.
It’s the nostalgic melancholy — the potent kind that produces something truly priceless in a moviegoer’s experience: genuine gratitude. This film makes you appreciate your life, the people in your life, and all the good memories that you’ve had the priceless privilege to share with other people. Sure, the various love stories in the film are touching, but that’s not really the main course of this film.
It’s something more akin to sublimity — like the strange mix of awe, loneliness, togetherness, joy, and terror you feel when you hike out into, say, Yosemite National Park, and you stand beneath a very large mountain’s shadow at night, staring not at the mountain but at the very large galaxy above the mountain.
The film achieves this emotional sensation by tastefully and cleverly depicting the full width and depth that exists in just one human life — a haunting human life that can never stay attached for too long, but must always leave behind ghost towns.
That’s really the theme of redemption and the treasure of this movie: it values human life in the context of committed, lifelong relationships (whether family, friend, or romantic interest), and it relishes in the goodness that exists in these relationships.
Is it a perfect movie? Well, no. (There is no such thing. Though like author Kevin Harvey wrote in his book: “If God can use imperfect people, why can’t He use imperfect movies too?”)
Will the movie jive with a Christian’s belief about the sacredness of sex within a marital covenant? Not really, no. Premarital sex, unfortunately, is portrayed as a normal rite of the dating process.
Is it a religious movie? No. The film never breaches any religious topics. Even the cause of Adaline’s agelessness is coolly explained in a non-miraculous, scientific paradigm. Though, I have to say: the matter-of-fact scientific explanation and the detached manner of the narrator who does the voice-over was very effective. He had a calm, distant tone of a documentary narrator, and this helped give Adaline’s predicament a noticeable gravity.
Whatever flaws this movie has are overshadowed by its deeply sensitive, heart-wrenching portrayal of the priceless value of a single human life — assuming, of course, that the human life in question is open to loving, vulnerable relationships with others. That’s the clincher. You can have all the money, all the fame, and all the success in the world, but if the cost of obtaining those treasures is losing the most meaningful, loving, committed relationships in your life — whether family, friend, or spouse — then what is it worth? Even immortality isn’t a prize weighty enough to counteract such loneliness.
Although this movie never wanders into any religious content, its story is a perfect launching pad for some deep discussion and debate. You could easily use the film to ask your friends some thought-provoking questions about, for example, Jesus’ claim that each of us can, by faith in Him, have a personal, eternal relationship with God Himself, the One who is the fount of love itself.
And that relationship, according to the Bible, is the most fulfilling personal relationship that any human can ever have. Perhaps all of us, until we take the risk of opening our hearts to God, wander through this world with the hidden, inconsolable melancholy of Adaline.
That’s something to consider.
If you are planning on seeing a movie soon, please consider purchasing your tickets online through our affiliate link above with Fandango, a high-quality vendor for online movie tickets. This will allow us to keep our site online and continue providing you with quality reviews.