The wonderful thing about coming-of-age stories is the promise of a ready-built character arc. The genre demands a journey of self-discovery, and catharsis for the audience.
That catharsis could be contained to everything that unfolds on-screen, but for many, the real resonance is what the coming-of-age story stirs within themselves. That pang of nostalgia and heady memories of experiences past.
Those liminal moments in our lives – first flush of love, the formation of key friendships, the endless possibilities of what’s next – remains a special time for most. To get back there, even fleetingly and vicariously, well, that’s what coming-of-age stories are for.
Of An Age is a queer Australian romantic drama brimming with tenderness and enchantment.
Written and directed by Goran Stolevski (You Won’t Be Alone), the film effectively evokes a delicate tale of discovery, set within Melbourne’s multicultural suburbs and at a moment of transition, the summer of 1999, for not just its characters but for the world.
Kol (Elias Anton), a Serbian-born teenager who lives with his mother and conservative uncle, is already a ball of nervous energy when he gets a call from Ebony (Hattie Hook), his dance partner. It’s 7am and in under two hours, they’re supposed to be in the finals of a dance competition.
Ebony has just woken up on a beach more than an hour away after a raucous night out that didn’t go as planned. She’s been left with few recollections, no bag and no way to get home.
The anxious screaming from both of them down the line is enough to make your hairs stand on end. But it’s a clever device to immediately bring the viewer into the story, and unwinding that spool of pent-up energy becomes the film’s seduction in itself.
The only hope of making it to the dance competition is to beg her brother Adam (Thom Green) for a ride. Adam obliges and the very stressed-out Kol, already dressed in costume for the dance, journeys out to Ebony in a lumbering Kingswood station wagon.
Kol is drawn to the openly gay Adam and Stolevski spends the next stretch establishing an intoxicating yearning chemistry between them. The will-they-won’t-they dance of lean-in-and-pull-back, and the countdown of the 24-hour timeline before Adam leaves, evokes Richard Linklater’s classic film Before Sunrise but there’s something more elusive here.
It’s more about the stolen looks, about the palpable hunger and what’s not said, than the dialogue-driven connection between Before Sunrise’s Celine and Jesse.
Perhaps the risk of being found out, and in a context of suburban Melbourne just before the onset of the millennium, lends a different dynamic to the charged bond between Kol and Adam.
By the time Of An Age flashes forward a decade in its final act, it has already cast its alluring and sumptuous spell with its reflections on love and lost love.
Of An Age is in cinemas now