A chance meeting sets stage for love story spanning two decades

A chance meeting sets stage for love story spanning two decades

(MA) 100 minutes

To say that Australian writer-director Goran Stolevski’s new film is taking a forensic approach to love doesn’t come near to describing its efforts to get inside the hearts and heads of its main characters. Stolevski and his cinematographer, Matthew Chuang, have an obsession with the close-up. The faces under the camera’s eye are minutely examined with no blush, blemish, tear or tremor left unrecorded.

Elias Anton (left) and Thom Green do more than survive the intensity of the camera’s scrutiny in Of An Age.Credit:Focus Features via AP

The action begins in the northern suburbs of Melbourne in 1999. Serbian-born Nikola (Elias Anton), or Kol as his Australian friends have nicknamed him, is a teenager graduating from high school when we first meet him. He’s about to compete in the year 12 ballroom final, but something has gone horribly wrong.

His dance partner, Ebony (Hattie Hook), a dedicated party girl, has wound up stranded at a distant beach after a heavy night out. Panicked and hungover, she orders Kol to get hold of her older brother and his car and pick her up.

Kol dutifully obliges, knowing they have no chance of making the contest in time, and he’s rewarded by encountering the person who is to become the love of his life.

He and Ebony’s brother, Adam (Thom Green), bond after Adam learns, to his surprise, that Kol is reading the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. There’s a slight setback when Adam reveals he is gay, but once Kol absorbs the news, it’s not long before he’s able to admit that he, too, is gay.

Their affair is played out over two 24-hour chapters. The second takes place in 2010, when the lovers return to Melbourne for Ebony’s wedding, and their affair is resolved. It’s a tribute to the persuasiveness of both actors that they do more than survive the intensity of the camera’s scrutiny.

Its way of magnifying their every gesture could have translated as over-acting, yet somehow, their performances maintain the unaffected naturalness they desperately need to keep you with them. Anton also handles Kol’s transformation from a naive adolescent into a 20something man-of-the-world with great ease.

It’s the narrowness of the script’s focus that lets them down. They need light, air and a little interaction with other people to let them breathe, but Ebony and her friends are raucous stereotypes. I wanted to know much more about Kol’s heroically hard-working mother and the hated uncle whose house they share, but she has only a brief scene and he’s never more than an oppressive off-screen presence.

There’s something implausible, too, in Kol’s volatile response to the revelation that produces the plot’s climax. Sadly, it does look like over-acting and it’s not his fault.

Of An Age is released in cinemas from March 23.

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