Of an Age
Elias Anton stars as Kol and Thom Green as Adam in director Goran Stolevski’s Of an Age, a Focus Features release. Credit: Thuy Vy / © Of An Age Films Pty Ltd

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It’s cliche to say that you never forget your first love. And, like all the best cliches, it’s true. That’s because, when you’re falling in love, all the cliches feel real. The butterflies in your stomach. The inability to wipe a smile from your face. When you stare into your loved one’s eyes and feel like everything will be OK no matter what. The first time you feel any of it, it sticks with you.

Of An Age, the latest feature from writer-director Goran Stolevski, is a tender, though redundant, attempt to capture the mania of first love and all of its associated stickiness.

It’s the summer of 1999 when high school senior Ebony (Hattie Hook) calls in a favor from her best friend, Kol (Elias Anton). After a night of partying, Ebony finds herself on the shores of an unknown Melbourne beach, with no money and no shoes. Distraught, she needs Kol to rescue her ahead of their dance recital.

With a face covered in zits and a uniform straight out of Strictly Ballroom, Kol embarks on his mission. He takes Ebony’s suggestion and recruits her handsome older brother, Adam (Thom Green), who’s briefly home from grad school and has a car. 

So begins Kol and Adam’s long drive to the beach, during which small talk turns into teasing banter about growing up, traveling, and their shared affinity for Jorge Luis Borges and Franz Kafka. When Adam reveals that his ex is not a she but a he, it becomes abundantly clear where their story is heading, though it takes some time to get there because Kol takes some time to come to terms with his attraction. 

Of An Age isn’t just a movie about first love. It’s a movie about first love when you’re gay, which is another beast entirely. Those butterflies in your stomach might also feel like daggers when they force you to confront the implications of being queer in the world we live in. In Kol’s world, that includes the potential to damage his relationship with his Serbian immigrant family, who already tease him about his lack of manliness.

These concerns keep a timid Kol at bay as he spends hours with Adam in the latter’s car, in his bedroom, and at his family’s dinner table. Adam restrains himself too, though his lack of action feels more cautionary: As the older, experienced one, he doesn’t want to cross a line without an invitation. (Their dynamic brings to mind that of Elio and Oliver in Call Me By Your Name).

It’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that, after a long day and a tantalizing night, that invitation finally arrives—just hours before Adam is supposed to get on a flight to South America. If it weren’t already taken, Before Sunrise would be a perfect title for this movie.

As if it weren’t Richard Linklater-esque enough, Of An Age’s third act takes a page from Before Sunset’s book and brings its characters together a decade later. Anton’s transformation into a much more self-assured 28-year-old Kol is particularly impressive, though eventually, being in Adam’s company reverts him back to his timid, wide-eyed ways. After all, you never forget your first love. 

Working with cinematographer Matthew Chuang, Stolevski makes Kol and Adam’s love story look delectable. Unfolding in a nearly square ratio, Of An Age is comprised of intimate close-ups doused in Melbourne’s honeyed light. When the camera lingers on Kol’s smile or Adam’s bare shoulder, it conveys all the lust and love the characters feel for each other.

But the particular circumstances of their love have been seen before, and Of An Age struggles to breathe new life into the cliches. Its characters are likable enough, but they can start to feel like caricatures: Kol, the quiet queer kid in the midst of a coming of age; Adam, the grad student who reads a lot and wants to move to Buenos Aires. Ultimately, as they fall in love, they don’t quite convince their audience to fall in love with them.

Of An Age opens at Landmark E Street Cinema and area theaters on Feb. 17.