A young dancer finds himself becoming late for a dance competition when his dance partner goes missing on the morning of the competition. While looking for her he his helped by a young man who helps awaken his sexuality.
One of the things I love about Australian cinema is that as a country our filmmakers seem to be able to make films about ‘real issues’ a lot better than many other industries. When you take a look at the work of directors like Ana Kokkinos or go back and re-visit films like Tom White or Somersault the realism of what you have just watched stays with you. Now that realism returns to the screen with Aussie director Goran Stolevski’s (You Won’t Be Alone) new film Of An Age which was the opening night film of this year’s Melbourne International Film Fesitval.
The film begins with a frantic ballroom dancer, Kol (Elias Anton – Australia Day), stressed to the eyeballs. It is the Grand Final of a local dance competition and his dance partner Ebony (Hattie Hook – Savage River) has woken up alcohol, and possibly drug, affected on the other-side of Melbourne.
As frantic phone calls go back and forward Kol soon realises that they only way they may have a chance to get Ebony to the championships is if her older brother, Adam (Thom Green – Dance Academy), picks up Kol and drives him to Ebony.
As the car trip goes on Kol and Adam talk about literature and music and soon realise that they have a common bond within their interests. When Kol learns that Adam is gay it begins to wake up his own sexuality and soon they have feelings for each other… the only thorn in situation is that Adam is leaving to head overseas the next day to further his studies. It is a time of awakening for Kol but is there any kind of future in what he is realising, especially given that his Serbian family will never accept him if he is openly gay.
I found myself completely enthralled by Of An Age and that all came down to the realism that Stolevski manages to create through both the atmosphere of the film and through its screenplay. The early scenes of Kol and Adam talking in the car almost made me feel like I was there in the car with the two as they spoke, in fact it took me back to the days when I was at Uni and my friends and I would go on long car-trips and just talk. The naturalism that Stolevski manages to obtain with his dialogue is rare in cinema today and hopefully it is something that we see become a staple of his films in the future.
The other thing I loved about Of An Age, and something I feel makes it such an important film, is the social commentary that it makes about both the Serbian community and Australian culture as a whole. In a similar fashion to Head On this film explores not only what coming out as gay means to Kol personally but what it means for himself and his family within an ethnic community. The film also clearly comments on Australia’s issue of ‘casual racism and homophobia’ with some of the snide comments made towards Kol at the party that Ebony drags him to. Again credit needs to be paid to Stolevski for the fact that as a filmmaker he knows that those comments are enough for the audience to sit up and take notice without over-lecturing.
Stolevski’s brilliant screenplay also allows for the cast to shine. Hattie Hook relishes a role that allows her to mix emotional drama with some elements of comedy while Thom Green and Elias Anton are young stars in the making. Thom Green has a James Dean to-cool-for-school persona around him with the acting chops to back it up while it seems that Anton is a good enough actor to deliver in any role that he is given. He is a powerful enough actor to be able to deliver emotion through looks and body language without dialogue being necessary.
Of An Age is one of the most important Australian films to be released in 2022. Not only does it clearly show that Goran Stolevski is one of the most promising young directors in the industry at the moment but it brings some very important social issues to the forefront. This is one of the best screenplays I have seen in years and I can’t wait to go back and re-watch this film when it receives a general release.