Review: ‘Of an Age,’ starring Elias Anton and Thom Green

February 20, 2023

by Carla Hay

Hattie Hook, Thom Green and Elias Anton in “Of an Age” (Photo by Ben King/Focus Features)

“Of an Age”

Directed by Goran Stolevski

Some language in Serbian with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Melbourne, Australia, in 1999 and 2010, the dramatic film “Of an Age” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few people of South Asian heritage) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: At 17 years old, a semi-closeted gay guy quickly falls for the older, openly gay brother of his female best friend, but this would-be romance is cut short because the brother is moving to South America the next day, and then the two men unexpectedly see each other again 11 years later.

Culture Audience: “Of an Age” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching LGBTQ love stories and movies about love, loss and possibly rekindled romances.

Elias Anton and Thom Green in “Of an Age” (Photo by Thuy Vy/Focus Features)

“Of an Age” is a compelling character study of love connections and the importance of timing in order for a relationship to grow. Elias Anton and Thom Green give memorable performances, but some viewers might not like how parts of the story remain untold. It’s a story that doesn’t fit a certain formula of what many people might expect in romantic dramas because of how the movie is structured. However, this unpredictability is the movie’s strength. By not following clichés, “Of an Age” offers something closer to real life than what most fictional movies about romance have to offer.

Written and directed by Goran Stolevski, “Of an Age” is a big departure from his previous film: the 2022 moody horror film “You Won’t Be Alone,” set in 19th century Macedonia, about a cursed woman who inhabits the bodies of various beings, while the witch who cursed her as a baby follows her to make sure that she does not experience love. In “Of an Age” (which takes place in 1999 and 2010 in Melbourne, Australia, where the movie was filmed), the protagonist is haunted by another type of curse: homophobia. This homophobia is the root cause of his shame about being gay, and it’s deprived him of having a love life up until he meets a man who gives him a liberating perspective. This perspective changes his attitude about his self-acceptance, his sexuality, and how honest he wants to be about himself to the people around him.

“Of an Age” begins on New Year’s Day 2010, when a gloomy-looking Nikola “Kol” Denić (played by Anton) makes a phone call to someone Ebony, who isn’t home, but the phone is answered by a woman who sounds like she lives with Ebony. Kol (whose nickname is pronounced “Cole”) is hesitant about this phone call. He tells the woman who answers the phone: “I was just thinking about her … I wasn’t thinking about her. Sorry.” He hangs up and takes a swig from a liquor bottle. Viewers later find out that January 1 is Kol’s birthday.

“Of An Age,” which is told in two parts, then flashes back to Part One of the story, which takes place over the course of 24 hours in December 1999. Part Two of the story takes place over a few days in 2010, about five months after Kol has made that mournful phone call. The movie has a non-traditional structure because Part One gets the majority (about 70%) of the movie’s screen time, whereas most two-part movies would be structured so that each of the two parts would get about the same amount of screen time.

In Part One of “Of an Age,” Kol is a 17-year-old aspiring dancer who is getting ready for the most important dance competition of his life so far: The Year 12 Ballroom Finals for an unnamed national Australian dance contest. His dance partner is his best friend Ebony Donegal (played by Hattie Hook), who has recently graduated from the same high school class as Kol. Ebony and Kol live in a working-class part of North Melbourne. Ebony is outgoing and rebellious. Kol is introverted and likes to play by the rules.

Ebony is also flaky and very temperamental. The movie shows that she has woken up on a beach, after a night of drug-induced partying with a male stranger she met the night before. Ebony has no idea where she is, and she barely remembers what happened the previous nught, but she knows that the dance competition starts in a few hours at the City Center in Melbourne. She desperately needs a way to get there in time.

After making some frantic phone calls and inquiries about where she is, Ebony has a meltdown when she calls Kol. She begs, cries and screams for him to come pick her up. Ebony—an aspiring actress who wants to go to the National Institute of Dramatic Arts—has a love/hate relationship with her single mother Fay (played by Verity Higgins), and refuses to call her mother for help. Ebony is often rude and demanding to the people close to her, but Kol puts up with it because Ebony is his only friend.

The problem with Ebony wanting Kol to give her car ride back home is that Kol doesn’t have access to a car. And he finds out that Ebony is too far away for him to pick her up and drive them to the dance contest in time. Ebony still needs a ride back home, so Kol enlists the help of Ebony’s visiting older brother Adam Donegal (played by Green), who has a car and meets Kol for the first time during this trip to pick up Ebony, who is disheveled, an emotional wreck, and quite the shrieking drama queen.

Even though there’s little to no chance that Ebony and Kol will make it in time to the competition, Ebony asks Kol to get her ballroom dance dress at the house that she shares with a friend named Jaya (played by Senuri Chandrani), who immediately picks up on the fact that Kol is gay, even though he’s not ready to admit it to anyone yet. When Jaya calls him “gay,” Kol acts slightly offended, but he’s really just embarrassed that Jaya has figured out his secret.

During the car drive to pick up Ebony in the rural area where she is, Adam and Kol have a sarcasm-fueled conversation that will change their lives. Adam is in his mid-20s and highly educated. He graduated from the University of Melbourne with a master’s degree in linguistics. As an undergrad, he majored in Spanish. And he’s about to get his Ph. D. degree.

Kol wants to impress this older man, so he tries to make Adam think that Kol is sophisticated. Even though the production notes for “Of an Age” say that Kol is 17, in the movie, Kol tells Adam that he is 18 and will turn 19 in a few weeks. Adam mentions early on in the conversation that he really likes South America. Adam is playing music from an Argentinian movie soundtrack in the car, so Kol pretends that he likes Argentinian movies too. When the subject turns to literature, Kol tells Adam that he has been reading the work of Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentinian short story writer.

However, Kol shows that he’s not very sophisticated at all when he mispronounces the name of supermodel Gisele Bündchen. Kol mispronounces her first name as “Jizzelly.” Bündchen’s name comes up when Adam says he chose Spanish as a major because he likes “South Americans—they’re just hotter.” Kol agrees and responds by saying (and mispronouncing) that South Americans are hot “like Gisele.” (Bündchen is from Brazil, where the national language is Portuguese, not Spanish.) At this point, Kol might be testing Adam’s reaction to see if Adam believes that Kol is sexually attracted to women. Adam doesn’t look entirely convinced.

Adam rolls and smokes a marijuana cigarette while driving. He offers a puff to Kol, who politely declines and says that he doesn’t smoke. Adam says of the dismal economic prospects of their working-class community: “You’re a good boy. Good boys make it out.” Later, when Adam asks Kol what his favorite book is, Kol says it’s Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” while Adam says his favorite book is Malcolm Lowry’s “Under the Volcano.” Their choices in books say a lot about their personalities.

During this conversation that becomes increasingly filled with sexual tension and romantic attraction, Kol opens up about his family. He tells Adam that he and his family are originally from Serbia. They moved to Australia in 1991, “because of the war,” and Kol’s father died in 1994. Kol lives with Kol’s widowed mother, Kol’s aunt (played by Donna Dimovski Kantarovski) and Kol’s uncle (played by Slobodan Andonoski). Kol says of his home life: “I’m waiting for my uncle to die. He’s a psycho.” Later in the movie, Kol says he rarely sees his mother (played by Milijana Čančar), because she’s busy working at three different jobs.

At one point in the conversation in the car, Adam mentions having an “ex,” but he doesn’t say what gender the ex is. Not long after that, Adam says that a box of music cassette tapes and some other stuff in the back of the car belong to this ex-lover. When Kol accidentally knocks over the box of cassettes, Kol says, “Your ex is going to kill me.” Adam casually says, “He won’t.” It’s at that moment that Kol finds out that Adam is gay.

This revelation and the majority of the movie’s plot is shown in the trailer for “Of an Age.” It’s later revealed that Adam is the first openly gay man whom Kol has ever met. It scares Kol but also excites him because he and Adam have a mutual attraction that they cannot ignore. And then (as revealed in the movie’s trailer), Adam tells Kol that this is his last day in Australia, because he’s moving to South American to get his Ph.D. degree.

Over the next 24 hours, Kol and Adam act on their connection before saying a bittersweet and tearful goodbye. The connection between them is so strong, that they both instinctively know that they could have had a soul-mate romance if circumstances had not prevented them from being together. The “what ifs” about their would-be relationship will affect them for years to come.

The trailer for “Of an Age” already shows that after not seeing each other for years, Kol and Adam happen to end up in the same airport baggage claim area. This is in Part Two of the movie, which takes place in 2010. The movie trailer also shows that they have both arrived in Melbourne because of Ebony’s wedding. And it’s obvious that Kol and Adam are still very much attracted to each other.

What isn’t revealed in the trailer is what Kol and Adam will do about this attraction. Adam and Kol catch up on each other’s lives, as they tell each other what they’ve been doing in the 11 years since they saw each other. However, one of them has a big secret that will have an effect on any possible reunion. Because the trailer of “Of an Age” gives so much of the plot away, the only real question that viewers who’ve seen the trailer will have is: “Will Adam and Kol rekindle what they started 11 years ago?”

“Of An Age” would not be as emotionally touching if not for the stellar performances of Anton and Green, who both authentically portray the heartbreaking reality that sometimes true love can be found quickly but lost just as quickly. Adam is Kol’s first experience with romantic love as Kol’s true self. And so, it’s been harder for Kol to recover from this separation. That doesn’t mean Adam doesn’t care, but Adam had more dating experience than Kol at the time they met and shared this intense connection.

The movie gives vivid portrayals of the personalities of Adam and Kol. However, some viewers might be bothered by the 11-year gap in time that isn’t fully explained except in brief conversations between Adam and Kol when they see each other again in 2010. It’s also a little hard to believe that talkative loudmouth Ebony wouldn’t have told Adam ahead of time that Kol was going to the wedding. When Kol and Adam see each other at the airport, they are very surprised. It’s a small detail that doesn’t ring true in this movie.

“Of an Age” might bring up a lot of questions that the movie doesn’t answer. But there’s no doubt that the passion between Adam and Kol is real for both of them. Viewers will be intrigued by finding out how much Adam and Kol have changed in 11 years—or how much Adam and Kol might have stayed the same. And are they still right for each other 11 years after they have met? It’s a question that’s open to many different interpretations, which can be exactly what “Of an Age” intends for viewers.

Focus Features released “Of an Age” in select U.S. cinemas on February 17, 2023.

Copyright 2017-2024 Culture Mix