From left to right, Hattie Hook, Thom Green, and Elias Anton in “Of An Age.” (Courtesy of Focus Features)

“Of An Age” starts with a bang and ends with a sigh. 

A teenage girl named Ebony (Hattie Hook) is woken up by the spray of the surf on an Australian beach after a long night out. She has absolutely no idea where she is – and seeing as it’s 1999, she lacks the in-pocket map we all now possess that would give her that answer. Hungover and disoriented, she hurriedly stumbles her way to a payphone, the camera following her just as shaky as she is. 

The person Ebony chooses to call to come save her is Kol (Elias Anton), a Serbian immigrant who serves as her sweet, shy, and definitely closeted ballroom dance partner. Kol answers, and Ebony explains her situation to him – she partied too hard, she has no clue where she is, and the duo is set to perform in the finals of a local dance competition that very morning. The two argue about what to do, their voices rising in pitch and panic until Ebony comes up with a plan. Her older brother Adam (Thom Green) has a car, and he might be their only hope. 

The opening of “Of An Age” rolls on at this chaotic level, climaxing during a sequence where Kol runs down the street in a glitzy dance costume as a cheesy, synthy tune plays on in the background. But once Kol and Adam – the real protagonists of this story – finally meet, that swirling tornado of mayhem subsides, giving way to a contemplative queer romance. 

From here, the film follows the evolution of Kol and Adam’s relationship over the course of several hours, before fastforwarding to a future where they reunite in their hometown for the first time in years. In the process, director Goran Stolevski seamlessly transitions from a rocking, rollicking teen romp to a thoughtful, if slight, meditation on the beauty and peril of romanticization. 

The structure of “Of An Age” presents its actors a daunting task. Kol and Adam meet each other once, spend a night together, and don’t see each other again for over a decade. In the short time we spend with the pair when they first meet, the connection between the two must be so potent that when they meet again as adults, we’re left longing for the moment they rekindle their romance – much like the characters, we’ve built that moment in time up to impossible heights. Stolevski, who also wrote the screenplay, achieves this by putting the audience in Kol’s position, allowing us to identify with him while a synergy of camera movement, cinematography, and performance comes together to create an idyllic spell that leaves you with an unbridled sense of yearning. 

When we first meet Kol, he’s not out, and he’s spent a lifetime pretending not to be lonely. His relationship with Ebony is nothing more than teenage superficiality, and there’s an undercurrent of racism and homophobia in his small, Australian town that keeps him removed from his peers. The character of Adam, then, becomes the cipher that unlocks something for Kol, making him feel accepted and understood. As Adam, Green takes this role and runs with it, delivering a tantalizing performance that ultimately makes the film work as well as it does. 

Dance is a constant in “Of An Age,” and fittingly, the actors treat their characters’ interactions as a dance of sorts. In the first scene in the car, Adam leads and Kol follows, almost furtively building sensuality as Adam gauges Kol’s comfort level with his own queerness. Green’s performance is strikingly deliberate. There’s intention behind every move, and you can almost see the gears shifting in Adam’s brain as he rolls cautiously over every word choice, as his eyes flash with warmth and interest, as he quietly invites Kol to know him. 

It’s easy to see why Kol falls quickly in love with Adam, because we fall in love with him ourselves. The camera and the cinematography further romanticize the couple’s meeting, bathing the car in a dusky warm haze, deploying intimate close ups so we can see every microexpression on the actors’ faces. At one point, Adam takes off his shirt (whether because he’s actually too warm or because he wants Kol to look, we’ll never know for sure), and the camera follows Kol’s eyeline as his gaze travels up Adam’s back, trying hard to sneak a look while Adam rests his face in his arms against the steering wheel. Then, Kol suddenly catches Adam’s eye through the crook of his arm, quickly breaking the sultry, sweaty haze – for the time being, at least. 

All of this – the camera movement, the cinematography, the vulnerable, seductive quality of Green’s performance – continues to work in tandem after this scene as Kol and Adam’s short-lived romance burns bright and fast, crystallizing the hours they spent together into this heightened, perfect moment in time. When the film fast forwards, we – like Kol – are left longing for that magic of that time, unprepared for the reality that’s coming.

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.