Of an Age Review: Reckoning with First Love

In 2022, Macedonian-Australian filmmaker Goran Stolevski established himself with his daring directorial debut, the folk horror film You Won’t Be Alone, about a witch’s body leaping through a Macedonian village and witnessing the wide spectrum of love and cruelty, that life has to offer. His second feature film, Of an Age, is very different – a high school coming-of-age story set in 1999 and 2010 about Serbian immigrant teenager Kol (Elias Anton) growing up in Melbourne and comes to terms with his sexuality and the experience of his first love. Despite the genre contrast, there is one commonality between the two films in the way Stolevski captures the aching beauty that is snatched away in life’s darker moments – the heart of the matter remains the same, the bittersweet tone just as poignant.

Set over two 24-hour periods 11 years apart, “Of an Age,” like “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” is united in one film in which two characters are rocked by a chance encounter in Count Years later with it. The film begins with a breath and moves on at a breathless frantic pace as Ebony (Hattie Hook) wakes up after a blackout on a strange beach and frantically calls Kol to pick her up – they need to make it in time for their ballroom dancing finale.

Although we initially meet Kol in the garage practicing his ballroom routine, this film fits Andrew Haigh’s Weekend more than Baz Lurhmann’s Strictly Ballroom. With Ebony in a rushed state, Kol grabs her gear and calls her only lifeline: Ebony’s enigmatic brother Adam (Thom Green), who pulls up in a station wagon to pick up Kol and get Ebony off the beach.

Adam is gentle, unflappable and inquisitive; his presence is a tonic for Kol, even beyond the crazy morning. The station wagon becomes a safe place to let their guard down and the two get to know each other as the journey progresses, first stopping and then easily exchanging references to Kafka and Borges, with Adam Kol teaching about Wong Kar – wai films and French pop. He’s a linguistics graduate student about to leave for Argentina, and he’s erudite, sarcastic, funny, and incredibly beautiful. Over the course of the chaotic day, Kol falls hopelessly and inevitably in love with him.

Anton skillfully embodies Kol’s conflicting feelings – to disappear and be seen at the same time, to fit in but escape the judgments of his macho Serbian uncles and the racist, popular kids in their “bogan” beach town. But Adam sees Kol, he pays attention to him, and Kol thrives under Adam’s gaze.

With a nearly square 4:3 aspect ratio, Stolevski and cinematographer Matthew Chuang use a handheld aesthetic and near-stolen close-ups to create an intoxicating viewing experience. It’s as if we’re witnessing this relationship unfold in real-time, just as Adam and Kol do, in small glances, gestures, and tiny expressions, their eyes darting at each other, reading between the lines of charged statements.

11 years later we see Kol again at an airport baggage claim. He’s all grown up now, stylish, comfortable in his own skin, wearing one earring and a sharp haircut, and is far more confident than the young man trying to go unnoticed in high school. He’s spying on Adam – what are the odds? Pretty good actually since they both returned to Melbourne for Ebony’s wedding. What will their connection be like after spending a decade on different continents?

These fleeting yet monumental moments define who we are, set us on one course or another, and carry with them both painful and glorious memories. In Of an Age, Stolevski dissects these charged but brief interactions with intent and attention. It takes up the common question that surrounds first love – “What if?” – but it doesn’t offer a cookie-cutter finish, instead presenting a messy and authentic story about the realities that the passage of time has wrought has.

Immaculately written and beautifully performed by Anton and Green, Of an Age is a deeply moving film about the beauty and horror of what it is like to be seen for the first time, to love for the first time, and like the past and future keep each other informed.

Katie Walsh is a film critic for the Tribune News Service.

“of an age”

Rated: R, for consistent speech, sexual content, and some drug use

Duration: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Play: Launches February 17th in general release

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