Of an Age
Goran Stovelski’s debut feature, You Won’t Be Alone, which premiered at last year’s London Film Festival, was an intriguing folkloric foray into the intricacies of identity. Although its threadbare plot and rather affected sensibility saw it stray too often into the dangerous territory of a Malickian perfume ad, it introduced the Macedonian-born Australian filmmaker as one with a uniquely textured tone of voice.
Stovelski hits a sweet spot, however, with his second feature, Of an Age. Revolving around performances of scintillating chemistry from Elias Anton and Thom Green, the story begins in 1999, and follows Anton’s Nikola “Kol” Denic, a 17-year-old ballroom dancer and Serbian immigrant to Australia. On the morning of his dance finals, he gets a frantic call from his friend and dance partner, Ebony (Hattie Hook) asking to be picked up after a blackout night, which saw her washed up on a beach a two-hour drive away from the venue. After a chaotic introduction to our millennial Australian milieu, which calls to mind the fraught tension of Goodfellas’ helicopter scene, Kol finally lands a favour from Ebony’s brother, Adam (Green), to drive out to her location and bring her home. When Kol realises the impossibility of getting there and back within two hours, he opens the door of the car and violently throws up, a moment of cathartic release which signposts the film’s subsequent shift in tone. The bedlam of the film’s opening set piece gives way to a second act which takes the form of a road movie, albeit one brimming with a sexual tension that is almost as tense.
But these scenes are also enchanting and poetic, with Stovelski miraculously taking full cinematic advantage of the interiors of a car, just like he did of the rural Macedonian landscapes of You Won’t Be Alone. At first glance, the director’s first and second features couldn’t feel further from each other, and in some ways that feeling is justified. The earthy fairytale hues of You Won’t Be Alone, while intriguing and occasionally beguiling, all too often felt aloof and uninviting, while the relative conventionality of Of an Age’s narrative provides an opportunity for Stovelski’s distinctive cinematic language to be tethered to something more tangible. But, on closer inspection, they are absolutely films born of the same voice, sharing ideas which tackle the intricacies of identity, the skins we slip in and out of and the emotional violence of coming of age. Anton absorbs these themes with brilliantly nuanced execution, while the more assured, older presence of Green’s Adam provides the perfect balance for him to do so.
Of an Age flirts with melodramatic excess as it concludes its final act, fast forwarding a decade to Ebony’s wedding in an act of reunion, which reads as a riff on the third act of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. But the intimacy of Stovelski’s screenplay, and his deftness of touch as a director, means that Of an Age gets away with the occasional flirtatious impulse, and ultimately nails its deliciously ambiguous landing.
Of an Age is released digitally on demand on 7th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for Of an Age here: