It’s rare to see the warm ache of genuine attraction portrayed in a way that is realistic and human, while also being worth watching on the big screen. On paper the thought seems counterintuitive — what better tool does a screenwriter have than romantic attraction to build two characters simultaneously? Heck, one of most enduring stories of all time is Romeo and Juliet — the standard against which so much of cinematic love is judged. But even so, it seems that the portrayal of onscreen romance is reserved mostly for quirky comedies and melodramatic epics.
Failing that, romantic entanglements are merely plot devices; a leveling-up for one of the involved parties to obtain.
But where are those real romances? Those confusing, hormonally charged attractions that cannot be explained, but must be cherished. Those shared beats of life where an invisible magic mixes with social forces to brings two soul together, even if just for a bit. The lucky ones amongst us have felt this magnetism at least once, and despite the near-universality of the experience, there ain’t a soul on the planet who can quantitatively explain it.
Perhaps I’ve answered my own question. Without a science of attraction, its big screen portrayal can’t help but it be a novelty (this is not a judgment, mind you, but an observation), so when a film like Of An Age rears its breathtaking head, we would all do well to pay attention.
The film follows two days in the life of Kol (Elias Anton), a repressed, Serbian-born, Australian high schooler/dancer, and his life-changing interactions with Adam (Thom Green), the older brother of his best/worst friend Ebony (Hattie Hook). The tale begins in 1999, as Kol and Adam are forced into an impromptu road trip to rescue Ebony from a very bad night out. The younger, awkward Kol is immediately smitten with the out-and-proud Adam, even though many factors in his life prevent him from fully understanding or embracing such feelings. Adam, who’s had much more by way of life experience than his passenger, at first gives off vibes of “cool older brother.” But soon a spark is kindled, followed by a guiding hand of acceptance, and then a short-lived romance that ranks among the best queer love stories ever put on film.
A more emotionally tumultuous, commendably mature second act revisits Adam and Kol a decade later. Both men have changed, but the same electric energy is again explored from a new angle.
Writer/director Goran Stolevski finds cinema in the smaller moments, eschewing melodramatic expectations to deliver a dual portrait of complicated characters, crossing paths at a time when each are at crossroads of their own. The script finds humor in the melancholy moments, and vice-versa, without ever letting the human warmth subside. While there are surely multiple DTV rom-coms titled some version of It’s Complicated, none could possibly depict the meaning of the phrase as well as Of An Age.
Stolevski’s filmmaking craft nears perfection in the way it brings the viewer into these emotionally charged moments without feeling leery or overcrowded. It’s fly-on-the-wall without a fly. It’s reminiscent of Demme in a lot of ways, although with a less clinical feel. Cinematographer Matthew Chuang (who also shot Stovelski’s impressive You Won’t Be Alone) proves adept at finding striking tone inside and outside, day and night, rain or shine. The film has a hypnotic vibe that helps it move past its handful of slower moments.
Most impressive are the performances. Both Green and Anton embody their characters realistically, and the age progression required by the time jump is almost entirely created via performance (and haircuts). Don’t skip this one
Directed by Goran Stolevski
Written by Goran Stolevski
Starring Thom Green, Elias Anton, Hattie Hook, Kasuni Imbulana
Rated R, 100 minutes