In the New York City of the 1870s, prominent lawyer Newland Archer (Day-Lewis) is betrothed to a young socialite May Welland (Ryder). When her disgraced cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska (Pfeiffer) returns from Europe having made a bad marriage, high society’s first impulse is to reject her. Archer defends Ellen against malicious gossip and is drawn to her beauty, wit and independence. As his wedding date looms and the family gathers round in support of May, Archer finds himself at a dangerous crossroads.
Adapting Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Scorsese delivers this most achingly romantic meditation on love confined by societal mores. An omniscient narrator (Joanne Woodward) exposes the vicious beating heart beneath all the decorum. The camera of Michael Ballhaus glides effortlessly around the townhouses of upper crust New York, recording subtle expressions and overheard conversations. Day-Lewis and Pfeiffer are quietly explosive together, and Ryder does not disappoint as the not quite no naïve May. A seeming outlier in Scorsese’s oeuvre, this “Age” is a tour de force of filmmaking.