Thom Green stars as Adam and Elias Anton as Kol in director Goran Stolevski’s film, Of An Age…
“My beautiful boy.”
With any coming-of-age story, there are often pitfalls to be aware of when conveying one person’s emotional struggles while finding their eventual footing, as it can come across as melodramatic. But sometimes, these changes in one’s perspective edge on the theatrical display of emotions, especially when the realization that one’s life is forever changed after a chance encounter with a particular person.
The newest foray into the coming-of-age drama genre is the gay Australian romance Of an Age. Similar in tone to larger movies of the past twenty years like Brokeback Mountain or Call Me by Your Name, this latest effort by out writer and director Goren Stolevski feels personal beyond measure. Having premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year and winning the Best Film Award at CinefestOZ, Of an Age is getting a wider release this month.
The film opens with 17-year-old Ebony (Hattie Hook) waking up on a beach in 1999 without knowing where she is or how she got there. Running to a pay phone and desperate for a ride back to civilization, Ebony calls her best friend and amateur ballroom dance partner Kol (Elias Anton) for help finding her. Ebony and Kol were supposed to compete in a dance final later that day, but Ebony’s partying ways thwarted Kol’s dreams of becoming a world-renowned dancer for the time being.
Still dressed in an ostentatious costume as he prepares for the competition, Kol gets in touch with Ebony’s older brother Adam (Thom Green), who agrees to drive Kol to locate Ebony. The two had a brief meeting once before but have yet to spend any time together. Now they must drive hours along the Australian coastline to find Adam’s hot mess of a sister while bonding over Tori Amos, Franz Kafka, and old movies along the way.
The two strike a connection that neither party can deny. For most of their drive, their conversations evolve from quietness to absolute delight in discovering more about each other. Despite their slight age differences, the two have become fast friends in no time. The reserved Kol admits to leaving Serbia at a young age to move to Australia with his overworked mom and bigoted uncles. At the same time, the worldly Adam is set to move to South America to finish his graduate work the next day. Both know they only have 24 hours to work on this newfound friendship and don’t waste any time.
Until, just as they find Ebony, their instant connection is heightened by the reveal that Adam is gay.
Abruptly, Goren Stolevski pushes his audience into new territory, and a brand new friendship could suddenly blossom into something more. But alas, it is December 1999, the time of Y2K, rampant discrimination, and a hard reset for many people looking forward to the new millennium worldwide. Yet, Kol and Adam have strong feelings for one another, and they fleetingly engage those feelings.
Of an Age is not the quintessential coming-of-age romantic drama. It is delicate in approaching a coming-out story for its two leads that packs a schmaltzy punch to the gut. Most of the film takes place within 24 hours, leading up to Adam’s move, Kol’s 18th birthday, and drastic changes for both men across the board. From a bird’s eye view, this whirlwind encounter might seem unimaginative, but Anton and Green infuse their dialogue with exchanges that strike emotional blows.
It works. It works really well.
A landscape that calls upon the nostalgia of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Of an Age is powerful in its drive to establish interdependence during a moment frozen in time for its two leads. Elias Anton is pitch-perfect in his portrayal of a boy turning into the man he wants to be, shedding his intolerant family’s skin while coming into his own during a transformational time. Thom Green understands the assignment to balance Adam’s sex appeal with longing glances and a hint of emotional stability in the face of uncertainty for both men’s future together.
Dripping with sexual tension before a flash-forward sequence that demonstrates where the two men end up in their relationship, Of an Age will emotionally wreck anyone willing to open their hearts to its indie vibe. A soundtrack noteworthy for its use of some of the greatest hits of the late 1990s, director Goren Stolevski makes sure his audience knows precisely what obstacles lay before his two main characters while harkening back to a time of significant transition for the rest of the world.