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Of An Age is Messy, but so is Life

Written by Julia Brukx

March 15, 2023

Goran Stolevski’s new film Of An Age is best approached not as a film, but as an idea for a work of art, for which film happened to be the medium. It might be approached as a surrealist meditation on love and identity, a two-act play, or a personal essay about one, unforgettable day. As an artform, film has many allowances, often asking its viewers to suspend their disbelief. But this suspension must be earned, and requires some things that Of An Age does not provide: reasonable structure, believably casted teenagers, and proper exposition, to name a few.

The film takes place in two parts. The first follows seventeen-year-old Kol (played by Elias Anton) and his friend’s brother Adam (Thom Green) as the pair race to bail out Ebony (Hattie Hook), the aforementioned friend and sister. Along the way, they chat about life, love, Kafka and Borghese. The second takes place ten years later, when the pair reunite at Ebony's wedding. The two parts bookend the first decade of the new millennium, from Y2K anxiety and payphones to the beginnings of social media and the frightening ease of communication.

From its opening scene, you know how this film will end. Boy meets boy; there is an instant connection; they introduce each other to new worlds and new ways of thinking; but, as always, it must come to an end all too quickly, a deadline set by their different worlds. It's a love story for the ages that has been replayed ad infinitum. Anton, though twenty-four, managed to play a believable seventeen-year-old, embodying Kol’s anxious demeanor. Opposite Green's confident, older Adam, Kol is clearly young and inexperienced: he knows there's something about himself that he's not quite ready to share or explore. When he meets Adam, who is confident, self-assured and, crucially, older, he’s immediately smitten. Adam is amused by Kol, who is wise beyond his years when it comes to matters of intellect, but vastly uninformed when it comes to matters of the heart. I know that not every gay movie should be compared to Call Me By Your Name, but I would not have been surprised if, at any moment, Kol decided to start quoting Elio.

For a film that entirely hinges on the chemistry between the two main characters, I was not entirely convinced. Most of the film takes place in a car, the duo seated side by side, facing forward, so the camera doesn't have many opportunities to place them together within the frame. The constant cutting back and forth made them feel oddly distant. Though this may have been an intentional choice by the director, it emphasized their distance at times when the audience needed them to feel close.

The film is meant to feel clunky and awkward, to reflect the internal feelings of the main character, but at times this distracts from the experience. Made up mostly of close-ups and shaky camera shots, it is difficult to orient oneself within the film. At times, I felt like I was treading water.The score is disjointed and distracting; rare moments of silence shine through as effective bits of storytelling, but are interrupted by strange, loud, and ill-fitting bits of music that work against the scenes rather than with them.

Though there were times that I was taken out of the film by the messy cinematography or quick editing, the rest of the audience seemed absolutely enraptured. The audience, a healthy mix of people young and old, laughed and cried at the film, which made me feel as though I was missing out on something, and encouraged me to look extra hard within each scene.

More than just a story about first love, Of an Age is also about repression. Kol is gay, but he is also Serbian. A couple of times in the film he introduces himself as Nikola and then quickly self-corrects to the more Anglicized "Kol." One thing that draws Kol and Adam together is their shared desire to see more of the world than just Australia. One thing I didn't know before seeing the film was the percentage of the global Serb diaspora that reside in Australia; a 1970s Agreement between Australia and Yugoslavia facilitated the recruitment of workers from Yugoslavia to work in Australia's mining industry. This isn't spelled out in the film, barely anything is, but it serves as a backdrop for Kol's anxieties about nearly everything. This further contributed to the hyperrealism of the film, the complicated identities compounding on one another as Kol attempts to explore himself, the world, and his place in it.

The film is an intentionally messy, brief glimpse into first love, however fleeting. It is a deeply personal exploration of identity set against a new millennium.

Rated R. Of An Age is playing at AMC Boston Common, Landmark Kendall Square Cinema, and other local theaters.

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