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Armageddon Time (Parent And Baby Screening) (15)

Cast: Jeremy Strong, Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb
Genre: Drama
Author(s): James Gray
Director: James Gray
Release Date: 18/11/2022
Running Time: 114mins
Country: US/Bra
Year: 2022

Jewish-American 11-year-old Paul Graff attends Public School 173 in 1980 New York where sixth grade dreams of Nasa and space rockets are a distraction from the teachings of ill-tempered Mr Turkeltaub. Consequently, Paul becomes a target for humiliation in class alongside African-American student Johnny Davis, who is repeating the year. The boys become friends but prejudices repeatedly test their bond and Paul's parents Irving and Esther threaten to send him to Kew-Forest private school instead.


LondonNet Film Review

Armageddon Time (15) Film Review from LondonNet

Childhood and adolescence frequently leave the deepest scars – largely invisible to the eye but reminders nonetheless of traumas and triumph that shaped our awkward, messy transitions to adulthood. Filmmakers mine these turbulent formative years as source material for (semi)autobiographical coming-of-age stories that capture the human condition in its full glory. Thanks to artistic self-reflection, we can witness the death of a parent in a Swedish provincial town at the turn of the 20th century (Fanny And Alexander by Ingmar Bergman), heroism and self-sacrifice in 1940s France under German occupation (Au Revoir Les Enfants by Louis Malle), fracturing friendships after high school graduation in 1960s California (American Graffiti by George Lucas), or skinhead culture in 1980s Nottingham (This Is England by Shane Meadows)…

In Armageddon Time, writer-director James Gray rifles through his childhood in 1980s Queens, New York, to explore complex family and racial dynamics against the backdrop of Ronald Reagan’s bid to wrest the keys to the White House from incumbent president Jimmy Carter. Pointed references to the education of Donald Trump at Kew-Forest private school – the future president is absent from Gray’s picture but his father Fred (John Diehl) and sister Maryanne (Jessica Chastain) lecture students – underlines the rhetoric of Reagan’s campaign that would prove a divisive but winning formula for the Republican Party 36 years later.

Anchored by an engaging central performance from 14-year-old rising star Banks Repeta as Gray’s on-screen alter ego, this snapshot of middle-class angst and the loss of childhood innocence feels overly familiar and allows its piercing lens to mist up with nostalgia. Jewish-American 11-year-old Paul Graff (Repeta) attends Public School 173 in 1980 New York where sixth grade dreams of Nasa and space rockets are a distraction from the teachings of ill-tempered Mr Turkeltaub (Andrew Polk).

Consequently, Paul becomes a target for humiliation in class alongside African-American student Johnny Davis (Jaylin Webb), who is repeating the year. The boys become friends but prejudices repeatedly test their bond and Paul’s parents Irving (Jeremy Strong) and Esther (Anne Hathaway) elect to send him to Kew-Forest instead, where older brother Ted (Ryan Sell) is making his mark. The threat of change sends Paul into an emotional tail-spin but his grandfather Aaron (Anthony Hopkins) has the right words to console and soothe.

Armageddon Time stylishly evokes an era of bigotry and abuse, pulling few punches (or cracks of a leather belt) when it comes to depicting Irving’s heavy-handed approach to disciplining his boys. Repeta catalyses winning on-screen partnerships with Webb and Hopkins, the latter retaining a British accent thanks to his character’s Liverpudlian roots. Pacing is pedestrian but Gray unearths moments of beauty in the mundane that emphasise the universality of this boy’s life.

– Jo Planter


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