Going in a completely different direction, writer-director Goran Stolevski follows his witch-themed debut feature “You Won’t Be Alone” with a story about blossoming love between two young men in late 90s Australia. “Of an Age” features magnetic performances by Elias Anton and Thom Green as the star-crossed lovers who reunite after a decade only to discover a flame not fully extinguished. Brimming with restless energy, the tender and honest love story may cause you to reflect on your first love, especially if life took both of you down different paths.
The film opens in 1999 as Ebony (newcomer Hattie Hook) wakes up on a Melbourne beach, looking like she just washed up on shore after surviving a shipwreck. She immediately begins screaming, then makes a mad dash for a pay phone to call for help. At first, it may seem that Stolevski has some residual horror left in his system to work out, but Ebony is no victim, she’s a drama queen (in both the literal and metaphorical sense), an aspiring actress and ballroom dancer who just realized she’s about to miss an audition after pulling an all-night bender.
Ebony manages to reach her dance partner and best friend Kol (Elias Anton), a 17-year-old Serbian immigrant, asking him to come pick her up and, in the process, retrieve her ballroom gown. He doesn’t own a car and the auditions are only an hour away, so out the door he goes like Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible” running towards Ebony’s home for the gown and a ride from her older brother Adam (Thom Green).
The film’s frenzied opening scene show’s off Stolevski’s prowess as an editor, in addition to being the writer and director. He’s in complete control while delivering moments of restless energy, heightened by the boxy 1.33:1 ratio, which only intensifies the tone. The crucial scene in the car as Kol and Adam get to know each other en route to meet Ebony, is a series of close-ups between the two actors, expertly cut, bringing a level of intimacy to a scene that a 1.85:1 ratio with both actors in the frame couldn’t achieve.
Anton and Green are captivating to watch as Adam begins to scrutinize his passenger, the attention not going unnoticed by Kol who is busy giving Adam the side eye as he inspects the curvature of his shirtless body. The two discuss literature including their fondness for Borges and Kafka while listening to the soundtrack of the 1997 Hong Kong film “Happy Together” directed by Wong Kar-wai. Yes, Adam is a romantic and a bit of a nerd, but he embraces his singularity, as we all should. The moment indicates Stolevski’s fondness for the Kar-wai’s romantic drama, a staple of LGBTQ cinema.
Adam and Kol eventually hook up capping off an intense 24 hours. Kol is devastated that Adam is leaving the next day for Buenos Aires to continue his education. For once the 17-year-old found himself treated with respect (unlike his relationship with Ebony) and Adam obviously helped Kol deal with his sexuality. As the sun rises, the two weep and embrace knowing they will soon be separated. The level of emotion in the scene clearly signifies this wasn’t your typical one-night stand. Image soulmates meeting for the first time then pulled apart by life which takes them down different paths.
Jump to 2010, both Kol and Adam have matured over the decade, facial hair and haircuts help establish the illusion, but the actors legitimize their aging by the way they carry themselves, confident yet nonchalant. The two reunite at the airport, both in town for Ebony’s wedding. For Kol, the wedding may be just an excuse to see Adam. Secrets are revealed at the wedding that changes the dynamic between the two men but the flickering flame remains a constant as the two move forward battling their emotions.
Music plays a nice role in the film. Adam introduces Kol to Tori Amos, while familiar songs by The Cardigans, Nelly Furtado, Brandy & Monica, Amerie, and Live fill the soundtrack helping to remind us of the timeline. Production designer Bethany Ryan drops subtle clues to the period, rather than going nostalgic. Apart from Adam’s car, it’s hard to tell when the story takes place. Ryan did extensive research to make sure everything was authentic to the era. Like Stolevski she grew up in Melbourne which helped establish the atmosphere.
Ryan worked with Stolevski on “You Won’t Be Alone” as did cinematographer Matthew Chuang who helps the director create the intimacy needed for the story while working within the boxy ratio. For the car scenes, Chaung removed the front of the camera. Making it more compact to accommodate the confined area. Beautifully shot with natural light illuminating much of the film.
“Of an Age” is a significant follow-up to Goran Stolevski’s debut feature “You Won’t Be Alone,” a multi-layered complex film combining several stories. Here, the writer-director delivers a film simple in nature, but the simplicity is part of the film’s beauty. Elias Anton and Thom Green are superb.
Now showing in theatres