Of An Age


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Of An Age
"Though small in scale and modesty told, this is a tremendously ambitious film, gambling everything on creating and selling a chemistry without which it would all fall to pieces. It gets away with it."

For some teenagers, growing up is all about trying to stand out and be noticed. For others, it’s all about trying to hide.

In the suburbs of Melbourne in 1999, Serbian-born Kol (Elias Anton) is getting into the costume which he plans to wear for the ballroom dancing contest final – happening that very day – when he receives a frantic phone call from his dance partner, Ebony (Hattie Hook). Having begged the money for the call from a stranger, she delivers a tale of woe about having gone off on a boat with a boy – not just any boy, because she’s not like that, you know, but one she really liked – and had a few drinks but not that many, honest – and woken up on beach in a small town which could, frankly, be just about anywhere. By the time they figure it out, getting there and back again before the contest seems just about impossible, and Kol sees his dreams come crashing down around him. He gets a ride there, all the same, from her brother, Adam (Thom Green), and it’s this chance meeting which will go on to change the course of his life.

Ebony is a force of nature. She goes crashing through life, providing ample distraction from and for a shy youth who doesn’t want to think too deeply about anything, for all that he purports to be interested in Borges and Kafka. There are thing in his life not just better left unsaid but better left unthought. It’s difficult to hold to that, though, when sitting in a car on a hot day beside a young man who is openly, confidently gay and talks about his ex boyfriend as if that were just a normal thing which one might do with a stranger without having to feel afraid.

He reacts in that awkward way which a straight person might interpret as homophobic, but which anybody who has been there will immediately recognise as attraction. Though they make small talk about any number of things, it’s easy to see what’s happening between them. Meanwhile, Ebony just talks, filling up space, assuming – or hoping – that somebody is listening. She’s boisterous and spiky and determined to go out and get drunk again at the earliest opportunity. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone that she has quite possibly been drugged and assaulted, any more than it occurs to Kol that she’s in love with him.

Kol knows that Adam is due to leave town, the following day, and move to Buenos Aires to do his PhD. That knowledge creates an almost unbearable pressure, right from the start. Nevertheless, over the course of the next 24 hours something will develop between them which is impossible to ignore. It will happen despite the casual homophobia which Kol experiences upon arriving home – not something predicated upon real suspicions about him, just heavy in the air – and the combined homophobia and racism which he will experience at a party where he uses cannabis for the first time. it’s a thing enhanced by intellectual hunger and the desperation which comes from being trapped in a tiny community. When Adam goes, Kol will be more alone, and more aware of his aloneness, than he ever was before.

What makes Of An Age more interesting than many similarly predicated cinematic stories is that it goes beyond this initial encounter, making us privy to the second meeting between the two, 11 years later. Adam has now moved to Venezuela to work for an aid agency. Kol has an earring and a tattoo, works in public health research and has stopped talking to some of his relatives. They are both attending Ebony’s wedding to a sweet but bland young man whom she doesn’t look at the way she used to look at Kol. She seems subdued, standoffish. They seem happier, better adjusted, as indeed society has adjusted to make more room for them. But things have changed and things have not changed and there is a feeling between them which has never gone away.

Though small in scale and modesty told, this is a tremendously ambitious film, gambling everything on creating and selling a chemistry without which it would all fall to pieces. It gets away with it, another feather in the cap of director Goran Stolevski, who directed last year’s outstanding You Won’t Be Alone. The performances are note perfect, the intimacy between the two leads captured in an extensive series of close-ups inside the car, whilst Ebony’s story emerges in the background through her eyes and her small hesitations. The script is particularly well observed in terms of what it gives to supporting characters, creating a portrait of a very specific place and time which will nevertheless resonate with viewers all around the world.

Stolevski is a filmmaker who has no compunction about breaking viewers’ hearts. He will also make you laugh and smile and feel alive, so that it’s worth it.

Reviewed on: 07 Aug 2023
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Of An Age packshot
In the summer of 1999, a 17-year-old Serbian-born Australian amateur ballroom dancer experiences an unexpected and intense 24-hour romance with a friend's older brother.
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Director: Goran Stolevski

Writer: Goran Stolevski

Starring: Elias Anton, Thom Green, Hattie Hook

Year: 2022

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Australia


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