The Age of Adaline is a bit like a student who hums along for three quarters of the semester doing “A” work and then totally bombs the final exam. She may have banked enough points to earn a passing grade, but somehow that “C+” feels more disappointing than does the “D” earned by her classmates who never really exerted themselves.
Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) is a quiet, unassuming librarian with a fantastic secret. Born in 1908, widowed in her late twenties, she experienced an accident where something “almost magical” happened. As a result, she stopped aging. That the film realizes that any pseudo-scientific explanation it would offer for its magical realism will sound silly—and yet feels compelled to offer one anyway—might be the clearest indication that it doesn’t know what genre conventions it wants to use.
The movie is best when it’s being an allegorical romance—much like Hawthorne’s short fiction. Allegories are less concerned with how a fantastic situation came about, more interested in what that situation reveals about human nature. Like fairy-tales, they are supposed to give us a sharper-than-usual focus through which we can look at the kinds of conflicts humans are always experiencing.
Adaline’s dilemma, like the ones vampires created by Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyers experience, is that being a lonely immortal forces her to be physically withdrawn and emotionally isolated. Anyone she shares her life with might learn her secret. Her daughter must lie about her identity to forestall questions about Adaline’s frozen beauty. Even her dog, who’s supposed to give some sense of connection, grows old and threatens ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
The Age of Adaline
This slideshow is only available for subscribers.
Please log in or subscribe to view the slideshow.