Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Of an Age is a bittersweet ode to the little moments that last a lifetime


Of an Age begins with 17-year-old Kol (Elias Anton) in 1999 racing around his house looking for everything he'll need for his costume and dance performance. This is an incredibly important performance and Kol is desperate to make sure everything is perfect. The rapid-fire pacing of these sequences and cramped camerawork accentuates the urgency of Kol's tasks, it's like the tone of Uncut Gems but applied to High School dance competitions. Just as Kol needs everything to go just right for one morning, he gets a call from his dance party Ebony (Hattie Hook) that she needs to be picked up. She's a little over an hour away in a phone booth and is insistent that only Kol can get her out of her jam. Needing a set of wheels, Kol turns to Ebony's brother, Adam (Thom Green), for help.

Once these two set out on the road, Of an Age simmers down. Director Goran Stolevski and cinematographer Matthew Chuang maintain their affection for extreme close-ups. Still, now the atmosphere is more relaxed as the two guys bond over a long car trip. Adam gets to introduce Kol to the soundtrack to Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together, they talk about their favorite books, and Adam nonchalantly mentions that his ex-lover is a man. This revelation stirs up emotions of longing within Kol that he can't ignore. Over the next 24 hours, he's unable to get Adam out of his head. As a flash-forward to 2010 at the midway point of Of an Age demonstrates, Kol won't be able to fully shake Adam even long after this momentous day passes into memory.

Above all else, Of an Age is a welcome reminder of how we don't need digital trickery to capture characters at different stages of their life (unless you're Martin Scorsese doing The Irishman). Talented actors are more than up to the task of portraying a single human being at various stages of their lives. Elias Anton and Thom Green do excellent work in this regard, particularly in the subtle details of their physicality. Once we shift into 2010, Anton quietly changes aspects of Kol's gait and the way he composes his body when standing still, all without distracting from the dialogue or story. These subdued elements prove incredibly effective at making one believe we're watching a person at vastly different points in time. This gift for actors just relying on raw talent to convey a character aging was once a simple aspect of cinematic storytelling we took for granted before the age of digital Tarkin's running around in Rogue One.

The subtle things are where Of an Age thrives as a low-key but engaging coming-of-age drama. Stolevski's writing leans heavily on forcing the viewer to read between the lines for indicators on matters like Adam's queerness or the kind of difficulties Thom is experiencing in his home life. There's a lot of dialogue exchanged throughout Of an Age, especially when Kol and Adam are stuck in a car together, but Stolevski deftly emphasizes the importance of what's not being said. Within nonchalant conversations there are important glimpses into the psyches of our lead characters. It's a thoughtfully-realized approach, not to mention one that deeply evokes reality, to exploring these two men at two radically different points in their lives. 

Stolevski's screenwriting does struggle more once the action shifts to 2010, but not necessarily because all of the virtues in his Of an Age script vanish. The older versions of these characters just aren't as instantly compelling as their teenage selves. While the initial scenes with teenage Kol evoked the works of Josh and Benny Safdie, the initial sequences of Kol and Adam talking again are more generically staged, they lack an extra oomph in personality. A bit more cumbersome is that an attempt to wring some drama out of a newly reunited Kol and Adam feels contrived. A great appropriately abrupt ending and the film's trademark style of thoughtful camerawork keep Of an Age running smoothly, but there's certainly a drop in quality once the time shift hits.

Of an Age functions best as an acting exercise (its two leading men are certainly talented faces worth keeping an eye on) and as a melancholy rumination on the kind of small moments that can pack a mighty impact. By their very nature of being so throwaway, we never realize while they're happening that certain events or interactions will leave such a profound impact. Afterward, though, it's impossible to forget about certain moments in life that might sound totally disposable to another human being. Of an Age is a testament to the bonds, however brief, that can feel like they last a lifetime. 

No comments:

Post a Comment