Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir was not titled Speak Memory for no reason. Memory lives with us every day – it is who we are.
Memory can comfort and appease, but it can also taunt, as it does Adaline (Blake Lively), who has been condemned to never age beyond her twenty-nine years after an accident of freakish science.
This is one of those films that is built upon the sort of implausible premise that should not allow it to work, but, like The Time Traveller’s Wife, to which it is not dissimilar, it charms without forcing itself on you.
Adaline’s life-changing accident happens after the death of her husband. She has a daughter who will grow old like the rest of us, but because she is unable to form lasting relationships, she is forever on the move – from town to town, from job to job, fleeing emotional commitment.
When debonair Ellis (Michiel Huisman) appears one night her determination to avoid affairs of the heart crumbles and the story enters standard romantic territory, with the teaser being will she or won’t she tell him her secret?
It’s not until Ellis takes Adaline to the country estate of his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) that an earth-shattering event takes place and, having been lulled into unwary familiarity, it completely took me by surprise.
Structurally, it comes later in the narrative than you might expect, but it is the pivotal moment that provides the story with its raison d’être – and, to give the old bloke his due, Harrison Ford handles it beautifully.
In a role that others might have milked for its angst, Lively plays it low key, allowing the swirl of events around her to shape her character – she is emotionally weary, resigned to whatever fate might next present her with.
Free of histrionics, it is a lovely performance, as is Ellen Burstyn’s as Flemming, her elderly daughter.
Despite numerous time-jumps, Lee Toland Krieger’s direction is unforced and rhythmic – and I went to water in the dog scene.
~ John Campbell