Following the atmospheric folk horror and Sundance favourite You Won’t Be Alone, Macedonian and Australian filmmaker Goran Stolevski returns for his sophomore feature with something that, on paper, seems wildly different: a Queer romance about a 17-year-old amateur ballroom dancer and his 24-hour romance with his friend’s older brother. Set in the summer of 1999, Of An Age is a heartfelt and sensitive exploration of first loves and unexpected connections.
Outtake had the pleasure of sitting down with writer and director Goran Stolevski to discuss Of An Age, ahead of its digital release on August 7th.
What inspired this script?
Goran Stolevski: I was forcing myself to write that week, during one of the first hellish lockdowns. I was forcing myself to read a lot, as well, and I was reading a short story by the writer Karen Russell about an Irish high schooler who falls in love with a corpse. So completely unrelated to what I ended up writing, but the way she writes is very character-based and the characters’ feelings are treated very respectfully. So, following this boy’s inner journey, the story has him stepping into his first ever party – and at that moment, I was instantly transported to the one party I went to in high school when I was 17. Not necessarily to the events themselves, because they weren’t very interesting or significant, but more to this intense sensation of what it felt like to be me at that particular time, and thinking about that time in the context of who I am now.
I started getting a sense of these two different characters who are almost opposites in terms of emotional maturity, and they’re driving in a car. And all of a sudden, I jumped up and went to my laptop and started to write frantically for five hours. Most of the film came up like that, in a rush of adrenaline.
On the surface, Of an Age and You Won’t Be Alone have very little in common, but there are some themes that appear to recur. In your mind, how do the two films relate to each other?
Goran Stolevski: You could call this one You Won’t Be Alone, and you could call the other one Of an Age. A lot of the time I end up writing about connection, about people who are outsiders forming connections more deeply because of the fact they’re on the outside. I’m also really interested in how you live the fullest life possible given the limitations life will impose – depending on where you were born, your ethnicity, your sexuality, etc. Not necessarily for political reasons, but purely because I want to write about universal feelings from the perspective of people whose existence is constricted in some way. I think both of these films come from that place.
Why do you think near-miss romances or ‘what might have been’ love stories are so appealing to us?
Goran Stolevski: For me, when I was writing Of an Age specifically, it was more about a really deep connection. It became romantic in that context, but what I respond to with this film is, how often do you end up talking to someone for hours and they really listen, and it’s not transactional?
The romance came out of that – but it’s still a matter of life imposing limitations, while you still have to live. Regrets can form, but can you get something of value out of that experience? Would you rather not have had it at all, if it causes you a little pain? Life has a lot of disappointments, in love especially. A lot of us understand yearning, heartbreak, and wanting things that our out of reach. All of us have our own variation on that story, and romance is just the easiest version of a connection to absorb and understand.
There have been comparisons between Of an Age and Before Sunrise and Happy Together. What were some of your less obvious film inspirations?
Goran Stolevski: I never really think of other films when I’m writing, because it becomes a bit tricky. I was aware as I was writing that Before Sunrise was an easy reference point, as well as Weekend. I knew what films the film would be connected to, but I wasn’t thinking about it in that context.
I’ve been obsessed with Alice Monroe for the last five years of my life, and in her stories, there are a lot of big time-jumps and an awareness of wanting to live outside your socioeconomic means, dreaming big, etc. And insofar as influences that shaped this film unconsciously, it was probably her writing more than anyone else.
Of An Age is out on digital download from August 7th. Watch the trailer below: