James Gray’s coming-of-age tale Armageddon Time is a familiar yet nonetheless riveting affair that examines family, classism, and prejudice through the lens of daydreaming youngster Paul (Michael Banks Repeta). His new friendship with Johnny (Jaylin Webb) causes friction within his family, who believe Paul would be better in a private school, away from Johnny’s influence. The kid’s only crutch to lean on is his loving grandfather (Anthony Hopkins), but as he struggles to understand where he fits in within everything that’s going on, the strain on Paul and his family only worsens.
Written with a wry comic flare, Gray’s script has uncontainable charm that will win viewers over within the first few minutes as Paul and Johnny’s attempts at clowning around in class aggravate the stern Mr Turkeltaub (Andrew Polk). However, sitting just behind the humour is an apt reflection of society as fitting today as its 1980 setting. As the children begin to acquaint themselves, it becomes apparent that they come from completely different backgrounds. Paul is lavished by gifts from his wealthy grandparents whereas Johnny talks of living with his grandmother who has dementia. It’s only when the boys’ escapades land Paul in serious trouble do his family, spurred on by their devotion to do the best for the boy, decide to send Paul to a prestigious private school.
Gray paints a telling picture of flawed futility, and even unobtainability, of the American Dream by showing the contrasts between public and private education, the boys’ backgrounds and even Paul’s grandparent’s success compared to that of his mother (Anne Hathaway) and father’s (Jeremy Strong),
Alongside Gray’s astute storytelling, acclaim likewise must be given to Hathaway and Hopkins for their sensational acting. Whenever the pair are onscreen, they bestow a whole new level of charm and personality to Paul’s story. Hopkins, especially, is the main source for this film’s heart, which leads to many tearjerking moments.
Although Armageddon Time doesn’t tread any new ground within the coming-of-age category, Gray’s comical critique of the American Dream and a spattering of delightful performances give this flick everything it needs to shine.
Armageddon Time does not have a UK release date yet.
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