As tender a movie romance as you’re likely to see, Goran Stolevski’s Of an Age strikes universal chords of love and attraction in a very specifically queer story, set in North Melbourne, Australia in 1999.
Playing out over an eventful 24 hours — plus a final act set just over ten years later — the film follows Kol, an 18-year-old Serbian immigrant, falling for Adam, the older brother of his best friend and ballroom dancing partner, Ebony.
Stolevski, whose first feature film, the supernatural thriller You Won’t Be Alone, delved into the folklore of his Macedonian homeland, this time turned to his youth spent as an immigrant in blue-collar North Melbourne.
Like Kol, Stolevski experienced similar alienation growing up queer in his newly adopted home.
“I think as much as it was incredibly lonely in a very specific way to be a queer person in a suburb where there was no one like you back in the day, and often is in a lot of parts of the world to this day, when you did find someone else who could connect with you in that way, that connection was so much more intense,” Stolevski says.
“Because if you’ve experienced the kind of loneliness when it’s removed, it’s just so much more electric and poignant than it would be otherwise. And I think that’s an experience that is specific to queerness.”
Unlike introverted Kol, Stolevski had come to terms with his sexuality by 18.
“I was very militantly out in my final year, so my trajectory was very different,” the filmmaker recalls. “Also, my final year at school was 2003, which even in that time, there was so much of a shift that it was a little bit easier for me by that point, for sure. But still, there were no other queer women, even, at least openly, much less men.”
Stuck in such isolation, Kol (Elias Anton), understandably gravitates towards confidently queer Adam (Thom Green), during the roadtrip that drives the movie. But whether or not they’re destined for love, they know that this one day together is all they’ll have for now, because Adam is scheduled to leave the country the next morning on a flight to South America.
Beautifully bittersweet, the film has wooed audiences at festivals worldwide, and arrives in theaters primed, Stolevski believes, to inject some realness into the queer characters portrayed onscreen in Australian film and TV.
“I get very frustrated with how — and I don’t think it’s just straight people that forced this, I think some queer people do it, too — how [queer characters] always have to be so fucking idealized, like they can’t be flawed,” says Stolevski, pointing out that a Walter White in Breaking Bad gets to be as flawed as they come.
“But he’s an anti-hero and he’s worth following. Whereas I have to be a model fucking citizen, or other queer people as well. And I really don’t think you can achieve proper diversity or equality until the person who is the minority in whatever perspective it is gets to be just as fucked up as anyone, but still gets to have the complete spectrum of emotions and personality.
“I find in Australia, especially, a lot of queer elements or characters just feel so accidentally sanitized and following a certain pattern, that I’m like, I feel like you’re talking at me rather than connecting with me,” he continues. “And I wish we allowed ourselves a bit more freedom to be more fucked up. I don’t think my feelings are niche. I think I’m as fucking universal as a straight, rich white boy. I don’t really give a shit about that. And I feel like we say we don’t give a shit about that, but then our art doesn’t reflect it. So I wish we could be more fucked up, frankly.”
Of An Age is playing at select theaters, including Landmark’s E Street Cinemas in D.C., the Angelika Film Center at Mosaic in Virginia, and the Regal Majestic in Silver Spring. Visit www.landmarktheatres.com or www.fandango.com.
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