Of an Age is Goran Stolevski’s soft but skilful drama about a queer romance that happened at the wrong time in all the right ways.
With his second feature film, Of an Age, writer-director Goran Stolevski takes a Moonlight–reminiscent narrative with all of its tender intimacy and loud silences, but strips it off its sophistication to give us a more down-to-earth, ordinary retelling of the doomed queer romance. He reminds us yet again that coming of age and identity are themes that will remain interesting to explore in film as long as coming of age and identity remain essential to us as human beings.
Of an Age is a 24-hour snapshot of 18-year-old Kol’s (Elias Anton) life as he is preparing for his performance at a dance competition’s finals with his friend Ebony (Hattie Hook). However, on the morning of, some unforeseen obstacles turn his day upside down and cross his path with Ebony’s brother, Adam (Thom Green). Forced to spend time together, Kol and Adam unexpectedly find a restrained romantic connection that might be short-lived, but leaves a lifelong mark and breaks down their walls.
The film opens with a bang, and a very effective one at that. The stakes and stress are high. Stolevski‘s writing here follows the golden rule of always beginning a screenplay with a problem. The already-established problem thrusts you into meeting Kol and Ebony, you find out who they are, what they care about, and you pick up on scattered little sprinkles that set up what the movie’s really going to be about.
Of an Age takes just the right time to ease you in without neither rushing nor stalling the establishment of Kol and Adam’s characters and the time it takes for them to grow fond of each other.
Almost the entire first act feels like one continuous scene and is among the most organically flowing dialogue scenes that I’ve personally seen in any queer film of the genre. It doesn’t feel like the moment is made to be artificially important for the sake of getting you through the initial stage of the film just to get it over with and get to the real meat of the story. Rather, it feels like a genuinely important moment for the characters, neither of which expected it, and that is carried over not only by what they say but the way the words come alive through the performances, both of Thom Green and Elias Anton, but especially the one of Anton, playing Kol.
It is intriguing to watch how Anton truly lives through a painfully human experience of self-discovery and confusion, which is only enhanced by the film’s visual language: the tight, too-close-for-comfort framing, the cinematography choices of Matthew Chuang, magnifying the intimacy with his lens.
Of an Age is jam-packed with extreme close-ups, handheld, which sometimes work well but other times feel rough. There’s an appeal to them in the sense that they give the film an emotional confidentiality. They give the characters such defined inner worlds of their own. At the same time, they can also feel claustrophobic, fatiguing even, when there’s nothing to break them apart for too long and give us a breather of a wider shot. I can only imagine that feeling being amplified in the movie theaters on a huge screen given that it’s still present somewhat on streaming screens.
After a flawless first act and a successful second, the film starts to lose some steam as it reaches for the finish line. It doesn’t derail completely, but it leaves you with a tinge of dissatisfaction in a half-earned third act resolution.
I call it half-earned is because the payoff relies on our empathy towards the two men’s emotional attachment to each other. However, particularly with Adam’s character, we don’t have enough to work with in order to understand his motivations or what drives him to Kol so strongly.
Kol is evidently presented as the main character, as we are invited into his insecurities and inner struggles, while even the minor details we learn about Adam are there to serve Kol’s journey more than his own. As a result, in the emotional climax of the relationship, Kol’s longing feels more justified and Adam’s remains unclear.
Emotional connection can be inexplicable and does not need to be rationalized, but from a filmmaking standpoint, the script could have given Adam’s character more room to breathe and come into his own. Perhaps, making Adam and Kol equally present and giving audiences a few tiny glimpses into Adam’s past would’ve justified the passionate longing he displays towards Kol later on, and the film’s third act would’ve felt more effective in the impact it tries to leave.
Generally, there’s a lot to love about Of an Age: the sorrowful symmetry of the beginning and the end of their relationship, the evocative soundtrack and how its poignant music choices are so purposeful in where they’ve been placed along the runtime, the authenticity with which it handles themes of queer identity, affection, regret, coming of age.
When looking analytically and rationally, plenty conflicting arguments could be listed on whether Of an Age is a notable contender in the queer coming of age drama category, but when looking emotionally, i can’t help but come out of this movie loving the emotions it managed to evoke despite everything, and the soft empathy it makes me feel towards Kol, Adam, and every last person of the many going through the same tough times.
Of an Age is now available to watch on digital and on demand.