Film Analysis – The Age of Adaline


Film Analysis – The Age of Adaline

The Age of Adaline is an impressive example of quality filmmaking. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger, the film stars Blake Lively and takes place in 2014. It starts off with an aerial view of a coast which then fades to show the Golden Gate Bridge from above. It is clear from the start that the cinematography is one of the film’s strengths. We are met by the voice of the narrator who introduces the protagonist, Adaline Bowman. We immediately learn that she is currently living under the name Jennifer Larson. During the very first scene we see Adaline (Jennifer) creating a fake ID under her new name. The following scenes provide key context for Adaline’s situation. She goes to work at the local library and looks through old rolls of film from the early 1900s. Through a series of narration and flashbacks, we learn that Adaline got married in 1929 and gave birth to a daughter three years later. Most importantly, during this narration it is revealed that in 1937 Adaline got into a nearly fatal accident that caused her to never age. 

The first ten minutes of the film very effectively set the scene for the entire movie. Right away, we get the exposition that is needed to understand the circumstances of the film. Something that sticks out to me is the thoughtful telling of the plot. We learn a lot in the beginning, but as the film progresses we gain more knowledge and context bit by bit. For example, we see the growth of Adaline’s daughter, Flemming. This is an important detail because as years pass in Adaline’s life, we can’t necessarily tell because her appearance doesn’t change. When Adaline visits her daughter, she appears more wrinkled and her hair is grey. This adds a layer of depth to the film as a whole. It really puts it into perspective how time moves around Adaline but she is stuck. It is a smart choice in terms of directing to include the visual of Adaline’s daughter aging, rather than only including phone calls, for example. Not only is the directing of this movie really strong, the cinematography emphasizes the ways Adaline processes what is happening to her. The most effective moments are when Adaline is sitting in silence and the camera focuses on her face. The viewer is left with no choice but to feel what Adaline is feeling. When she is crying, the cinematography ensures we see the tears grace the sides of her face. The attention to detail and the emotion in these moments are part of what is so impressive. The film does a good job of portraying the rate of the people around Adaline aging. It doesn’t spend too much time on it, but it doesn’t need to. It is clear to Adaline that her daughter will die before her. The film handles this idea really well.

Something else the film does really well is the use of narration. There is narration only when it is needed. It is used a lot in the opening of the film and at the end. This allows the story to unfold without always needing an explanation; however, in the moments where there is narration, it provides a better understanding of the events. As the film teaches us more about Adaline, we learn that she changes her name and moves to a different city every ten years as the authorities become suspicious of her secret. During the different stages in her life, Adaline goes through a cycle of falling in love and leaving because she knows she will not have the opportunity to grow old with someone. When she meets her current boyfriend Ellis’ parents, his father William is taken aback because he remembers Adaline from his past. This is a pivotal moment in the film. It is a strong moment for direction, pacing, and cinematography all at once. The connection between Adaline in the present and Adaline from the past is very clever. This detail allows the audience to fully take in the impact of Adaline’s inability to age. When William recognizes Adaline, there is a small pause in dialogue and the camera goes back and forth between focusing on Adaline and William’s faces. This makes it obvious to the viewer that Adaline and William have a connection. William tells Adaline she looks just like an old friend of his, and Adaline then lies by telling him his old friend is her mother. The dialogue really works here because there is dramatic irony. The audience knows something about Adaline that the other characters don’t know. This depth greatly strengthens the film. Additionally, the pacing is something that really shines throughout the entire film, especially in regard to Adaline’s relationships with other characters. It doesn’t drag out the scenes to get the full effect. Time isn’t wasted in the movie on side plots. Every moment in the movie shares something crucial to the plot or the characters.

Something worth mentioning is Blake Lively’s acting throughout the entire film. It is obvious that she truly understands the impact of not aging. The connection between the actor and the character is palpable. The film would not function without Blake Lively’s portrayal of such an intricate character. Adaline’s experiences are very unique but not impossible to believe. It is a skill to be able to tell such a rare story in a believable manner. The complexity Blake Lively brings to the character presents the greater theme of struggling to live in the moment when all she has is the moment. Adaline Bowman is a woman who has been granted unlimited moments to live, but she is paralyzed because she knows she will never be able to grow old with a significant other.


Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash