Great romance movies are few and far between. The multitude of factors that have to go right, including the chemistry of the two lead actors, the right type of story, and the dialogue, make success hard to achieve. Same-sex relationships have not been explored nearly as much as straight ones in the history of movies, so making an effective gay romance is inherently more difficult.
The past year saw two solid gay rom-coms – Fire Islandand Bros – and now comes a great drama, Of An Age. When we meet Kol (Elias Anton), he is a 19-year-old Australian ballroom dancer about compete with his best friend, Ebony (Hattie Hook). But a drunken night by Ebony, winding up with her lost far from home, derails those plans, and Kol has to ask Ebony’s brother Adam (Thom Green) to help find her.
The hour-long drive gives Kol and Adam plenty of time to get to know one another, and when the closeted Kol discovers that Adam is openly gay, it begins a tentative-but-intense bond between the two. The film, which starts in 1999 and finishes in 2010, explores how a quick connection like the one Kol and Adam have can have far-reaching impact on both lives.
Written and directed by Goran Stolevski, the film tells a story that’s both universal and highly specific to the experience of many gay people. Finding your first love can transport a person in many ways, and the film does a magnificent job of imparting that feeling, showing how Kol and Adam become close through their conversations, furtive glances, and more.
Stolevski and the actors also impressively demonstrate just what it means for someone like Kol, who hasn’t found the courage to fully reveal himself to the world, to find someone like Adam, who already has. The film doesn’t do so in a heavy-handed manner, instead opting for a low-key approach that still tells the audience all they need to know about the lives of each man.
The result is a highly romantic story that only frustrates because of effective storytelling choices. Right from the start, Ebony is portrayed as a drama queen of the highest order, and her self-centeredness steals focus from Kol and Adam. And the reality of where Kol and Adam are heading in their respective lives makes the relatively short time they have together all the more precious.
Unless you’re somehow well-versed in Australian TV, none of the actors will be familiar, but that serves the story well. Both Anton and Green are eminently likable, and the start-and-stop conversations between their two characters feel so real that it’s almost painful. Hook makes Ebony into someone you love to hate, which means she’s doing her job well.
It wasn’t so long ago that romantic movies involving gay characters felt far from mainstream. Of An Age is part of a fantastic trend that opens up a whole new world for a segment of society that’s been held back far too long.
Of An Age is now playing in theaters.