“I’ll be nineteen in, like, three weeks,” Kol tells Adam in Of an Age. Kol (Elias Anton) might only be a year or two younger than Adam (Thom Green), but years separate them maturity-wise. The young men fatefully collide when Kol desperately needs a ride. His dance partner, Ebony (Hattie Hook), woke up on a beach two hours away and Kol needs to save her. They’re in the finals for a dance competition that seems do-or-die for Kol. Ebony, meanwhile, is Adam’s younger sister. He therefore does his sibling duty by chauffeuring Kol to Ebony’s rescue.
Writer/director Goran Stolevski marks a striking change of pace in style with Of an Age. Following his wicked feature debut You Won’t Be Alone, a period piece with kinky witches, Goranski strips life back to its essentials. Of an Age is an easygoing two-hander with a bittersweet two-act structure. It unfolds leisurely after a The Hangover– style opening at breakneck speed when Ebony summons Kol and Adam for a ride. Kol and Adam have an unspoken awkwardness between them. There’s some reference to a Shakespeare play Ebony did and Kol seems uneasy asking Adam for the ride. The drive itself goes smoothly, though, once Kol stops freaking out. Adam has a calm, cool presence that’s rubs off on the younger man and is infectiously enveloping.
The Glance Effect
Stylistically, the film might seem like a comedown after the decidedly cinematic You Won’t Be Alone. Of an Age sees little Malickian twirling in the cinematography, the score is comparatively subdued, and the symbolism fairly muted. Having worked with witches previously, though, Stolevski knows how to cast a spell. Of an Age is all about learning how to be comfortable in the presence of another. Where his first feature favours visual language, though, Stolevski’s sophomore film improves upon character and dialogue.
The film plays out in a shot/reverse shot cadence as Kol and Adam converse en route to Ebony. Fans of come-hither glances will swoon for this leisurely ride that DP Matthew Chuang shoots in intimate Academy ratio close-ups. The guys throw stares in each other’s direction, sizing each other up on the sly. Green especially cuts a mean side-eye and gives Of an Age an immediate spark thanks to his potent, yet playful screen presence. At the same time, Anton and Green are effortlessly at ease together. They have natural chemistry and create relatable characters driven by curiosity and the spark of young love.
Stolevski loosely draws from his life growing up in Australia—there’s even reference to an offscreen character Goran—to guide this exploration of self-love and fitting in. Adam teases that he wasn’t out in high school, but enjoys being something of a brief novelty now that he is. Kol, on the other hand, uses his Macedonian family as an excuse to butch things up—or, at least, appear as butch as one can be in a sequined dance costume that boasts major man cleavage.
En route to their destination, the boys find common bonds in literature and music. Kol tries to impress Adam with his booksmarts—he’s even read Kafka!—and leans into the driver’s interest in linguistics to sway the conversation. Stolevski, moreover, hangs an affecting cautionary light over his road movie. Along the way, Adam shares that he’s moving to South America the next morning. He’s doing his doctorate in linguistics and will be abroad the next five years.
Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, Kol comes of age under Adam’s guidance. Of an Age eases into Before Sunrise mode as the young men make the most of the few hours they have left. The film lets audiences marinate in the growing pains of young love as Adam’s parting gift is an education to help Kol be his best self.
Driven by a simple structure and two natural performances, the film uses real-time drama smartly and then effortlessly flashes forward years to accentuate the tragedy of lost time. It’s a testament to the love stories that mark turning points in our lives.
In Anton’s hands, Kol handles himself with confidence and composure when we meet him again a decade later. Transformed by experiences he’d only encountered in books previously, it seems Adam’s education did him well.
As Kol and Adam meet again at Ebony’s wedding, united fatefully by the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption that grounded airplanes, but was arguably less chaotic than Ebony’s wild night out that stranded her on a beach and set this whirlwind affair in motion, it’s like they haven’t missed a beat. Some sparks are ageless.
Of an Age opens in theatres beginning Feb. 17.