Friday, February 17, 2023

Of an Age: Movie Review

Intimate and epic, heartbreaking and funny.
Of an Age starts frantically with a problem both amusing and concerning. Ebony (Hattie Hook) wakes up with disheveled clothes alone on a beach. She scrambles to find a payphone (it’s 1999) and she calls Kol (Elias Anton) to come get her. A few problems with that. Kol doesn’t have a car, she doesn’t know where she is, and they have a dance final in an hour. He has to find someone to drive, pick up her dance outfit, use deductive reasoning to guess where she is, and make sure her mother doesn’t find out.   2022

Directed by: Goran Stolevski

Screenplay by: Goran Stolevski

Starring: Elias Anton, Thom Green

Kol and Ebony are dance partners at a performing arts high school in Melbourne, Australia. And it’s clear from just one phone call that it’s a very one-sided friendship. The film very efficiently constructs the characters. Kol was practicing the dance routine in his room in a small house he shares with his mom and extended family, while Ebony was waking up from a night of drinking with guys she doesn’t remember and doing what she doesn’t remember.

As Kol begins the process of rescuing his dance partner, the film makes a subtle but significant u-turn. The story isn’t about Kol and Ebony, and it’s not about dancing. It’s about Kol and Adam (Thom Green); Ebony is the crucial point that connects what is about to become an epic and heartbreaking love story, primarily taking place in a crowded car between two boys in different places in their lives.

Adam is Ebony’s older brother, home from university before starting grad school in South America. He’s who Kol calls to rescue Ebony and hopefully save their dance final. When Kol asks Adam what the fastest way is, Adam replies, “Helicopter.” “Maybe there’s a different route we can take?” “Unless we’re flying, there’s no way we’re getting there in an hour let alone there and back.” I really loved this exchange because Kol seemingly has a choice to make – either go get Ebony or stay and dance alone and maybe salvage his final exam. But neither Kol nor Adam even hint towards making the choice to not go.

Kol’s motivations become clearer later on, but there are a few reasons why he picked Adam. Kol’s an immigrant from Bosnia and doesn’t have many (or any) friends in Australia, so he needs somebody who will want to help Ebony, and somebody reliable (Ebony’s friends are less put together than she is). Adam is also openly gay, something that Kol is not – the open part that is.

By the end of the movie we know that Kol picked Adam not because he wanted to help Ebony but because he wanted to help himself, connect with somebody like-minded, see the world through Adam’s eyes even if just for two hours.

Kol is shy, lonely and with very little connections. Adam is hot, popular, and has just graduated from university. Most of the trip to pick up Ebony, Adam is getting to know Kol, but approaching the relationship from a point of confidence, he had the upper-hand and they both know it. When they pick up Ebony, everything starts shifting, she insults both of them, and Adam realizes, although with uncertainty, that Kol isn’t into Ebony and he isn’t into girls in general. Kol has a secret that Adam doesn’t have: he’s gay, and Adam no longer has the power over their relationship.

I only know Thom Green from Dance Academy, and I would have to assume he’s very well known in his native Australia, but this is a performance for the ages. All of the extra glances at Kol that he steals, the uncertainty when he realizes Kol might be gay but he doesn’t know, the fear when he realizes he’s going to have to be the one to make a move – all of those were present and combined with the exterior that Adam has had to develop in order to grow up openly gay, namely, masculinity and confidence.

There’s a time jump to get us to the last act of the movie. The evolution of both Adam and Kol occurred because of their interactions on that fateful day in 1999. It’s 2010 and real world events (the Icelandic volcano) are now shaping their futures.

Of an Age weaves together a story that is both intimate and epic, funny and sad. A love story that seemingly develops out of thin air (although Kol had additional motivations when he chose to call Adam) and centered around a character so vividly created that Ebony doesn't even need to be present to shape the story. Thom Green owns the screen for every minute of the movie, and then he and Elias Anton will break your heart but in a way that doesn’t hurt because you watched them both evolve for the better over two hours in a car and a bus trip 10 years later.

One of the Best of 2023