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Focus Features was behind such memorable gay movies as Brokeback Mountain and Milk. They keep their tradition alive with a new Australian film from director Goran Stolevski. Of an Age will not match those landmark films in terms of either box office or awards glory, but it could touch audiences that seek it out. In the tradition of an earlier gay indie movie, Weekend, which unfolded over the course of just a couple of days, this new picture proves that economy can be a virtue.
The film opens strikingly with a young woman, Ebony (newcomer Hattie Hook), waking up on a beach outside Melbourne as waves crash over her. The time is 1999, so she has to find a pay phone to call for help. She reaches Kolya (Elias Anton), a fellow teenager who was supposed to compete with her in a dance contest that morning. He is dressed in a gaudy outfit (something out of Strictly Ballroom) but insists that he is not gay. To track down the disoriented young woman, Kolya reaches her older brother Adam (Thom Green) and enlists him to drive to the shore to retrieve Ebony.
Of an Age
Cast: Elias Anton, Thom Green, Hattie Hook
Director-writer: Goran Stolevski
Rated R, 1 hour 39 minutes
The first part of the movie takes place mainly inside the car where Adam and Kolya talk while they drive and get to know each other. An attraction is subtly evident at first but gradually intensifies as the two young men share their thoughts about literature and life. Director Stolevski has chosen to shoot the movie in a tight, nearly square format. This visual strategy highlights the faces of the characters, as their emotional responsiveness to each other gradually and believably builds. It is fun to hear characters discuss Kafka and Borges (not a conversation heard in too many other movies these days), but the erotic intensity of tight closeups also tantalizes.
The main obstacle to their budding romance is not Kolya’s uncertainty about his sexual orientation but the fact that Adam is leaving the very next day to continue graduate work in South America. As the day goes on, Ebony is rescued, and the three of them reconnect at an evening party, where we are left to wonder whether the flirtation between the two men will have a chance to explode before the plane trip the following morning. No spoilers here, but let’s just say that the chemistry between these two attractive young actors keeps us transfixed.
Anton conveys the awkwardness of a young man still wrestling with his identity, while Green projects just the right note of self-assurance and sexual swagger. Although the two men dominate the film, there are interesting interludes with Kolya’s Serbian family. Like these characters, director Stolevski is an immigrant from the Balkans, so he brings firsthand knowledge to these family scenes, which add texture to the erotic drama playing out in the foreground.
The second part of the film jumps ahead to 2010, when both Adam and Kolya return to Melbourne for Ebony’s wedding. It seems that they have not seen each other since the intense day they spent together a decade earlier, but the encounter has not been forgotten by either of them. Kolya remains more fixated on their day together than Adam, who has established a new life in Canada, where gay marriage was legal several years before the laws changed in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. Although Kolya probably remains more infatuated than Adam, neither of them has forgotten the intensity of the single day they spent together.
Film buffs may remember the oft-quoted moment from Citizen Kane, when the character played by Everett Sloane recalls a glimpse he had of a charismatic woman several decades earlier, a moment he has never forgotten. Of course not all brief encounters are so memorable, but the possibility exists of a life-changing experience that lasted just minutes or hours. It is to the credit of the director and the two leading actors in Of an Age that we come to share and savor these characters’ privileged moment of connection.
Cast: Elias Anton, Thom Green, Hattie Hook, Toby Derrick, Jack Kenny, Grace Graznak
Director-writer-editor: Goran Stolevski
Producers: Kristina Ceyton, Samantha Jennings
Director of photography: Matthew Chuang
Production designer: Bethany Ryan
Costume designer: Zohie Castellano
Casting: Natalie Wall
Rated R, 1 hour 39 minutes
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