Starring: Elias Anton, Thom Green and Hattie Hook
Distributor: Roadshow Films
Runtime: 100 mins. Reviewed in Mar 2023
Reviewer: Peter W Sheehan
This Australian movie is about the development of a gay relationship between Nikola “Kol” Denic, an immigrant from Serbia, and Adam Donegal (Green), who is the brother of Kol’s ballroom dance partner, Ebony (Hook). It is a story of gay attraction in Australia.
The film is set in the summer of 1999 and depicts a 24-hour romance between 18-year-old Kol and Ebony’s older brother, Adam. The film starts dramatically by focusing on Ebony, lying, hung over, on a beach, not knowing where she is, and it is the morning of the final dance competition, where she and Kol are scheduled to compete. Waking up on the beach, Ebony has no idea of how she got there. She calls her ballroom dance partner, Kol; and he seeks out Ebony’s brother, Adam, who has a car that can be used to pick her up. Kol and Ebony have a stormy relationship, and Adam agrees to rescue his sister.
Kol and Adam link up, and they begin a long drive. En route, they explore each other’s personality, and liberally share views about literature and life – tentatively at first, and then more deeply and with greater emotional intensity. In the car, Adam hints strongly to Kol that he is gay and single, and a romantic attachment of the two men to each other begins. Kol and Adam sexualise their relationship, and Kol departs.
The film concludes by focusing on Adam and Kol 10 years later at Ebony’s wedding. At the wedding, Kol learns that Adam is married to another man. Experiencing the pain of the news, Kol expresses disappointment and bitterness. The movie shifts from a hesitant tone to one of frustrated intimacy, and with 10 years now passed, the film contrasts teenage fantasy with the reality of growing older. Adam is now unavailable and out of reach, and long ago it was Adam who altered Kol’s life.
The acting in the movie by Green as Adam, and Anton as Kol, is impressive. The teenage awkwardness of Kol reflects the fragile realism of adolescent romance. Kol and Adam say and do what the film’s plotline leads one to expect, and the film keeps the viewer at a distance defined by what is said, and also by what is left unsaid.
The film demonstrates two young men who forged a connection in a society shaped by isolation. When the two main characters separated, their isolation was impressively apparent – Kol with Adam is gay and frank, but when separated from Adam is not. Brokeback Mountain (2005) was a memorable movie about an intense gay relationship but this is a film that achieves its power in other ways. The two men find it difficult to be open with each other when they are surrounded by others, and 10 years after their car journey, their early tentative encounter has given way to frustrated longing.
As a depiction of gay awareness, the film in its early scenes is full of yearning and intimacy, that has not resulted in a stable relationship. As such it is a tender coming-of-age story where gay identity is being formed. The film is impactful in its scenes of sexual arousal, but for the most part it chooses wisely to stay more at the level of an intense encounter, where loneliness and isolation lie thoughtfully at its core. A burgeoning, intimate relationship after 10 years has become, for both Kol and Adam, a personal search for human connection. The attraction to each other is complicated, however, by a compulsive addiction to sex which has developed for both men in the time they have been apart.
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