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 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 new film Of An Age which was also the opening night film of last year’s Melbourne International Film Festival.
The film begins with a frantic ballroom dancer, Kol (Elias Anton), stressed to the eyeballs. It is the grand final of a local dance competition and his dance partner Ebony (Hattie Hook) has woken up alcohol and possibly drug affected on the other side of Melbourne.
As hectic and panicked phone calls go back and forth, 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), 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 with 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 them. In fact, it took me back to the days at university when 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. 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 is the social commentary that it makes about both the Serbian community and Australian culture as a whole, exploring not only what coming out as gay means to Kol personally, but also what it to his family within the Serbian community. Of An Age also comments on Australia’s issue of casual racism and homophobia with some of the snide comments made towards Kol at the party 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 ‘too-cool-for-school’ persona around him with the acting chops to back it up. Anton is a good enough actor to deliver in any role that he is given and is powerful enough 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 recent years. Not only does it clearly show that Goran Stolevski is currently one of the most promising young directors in this industry, 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 re-watch this film now that is has a general release.