Above: (L to R) Michael Banks Repeta as “Paul Graff” and Anthony Hopkins as “Grandpa Aaron Rabinowitz”.
By Mark Fields
Director-screenwriter James Gray (Ad Astra, The Lost City of Z) has crafted a delicate, subdued, and clearly autobiographical film in his latest feature, Armageddon Time. This poignant coming-of-age story tells of the awkward adolescence of Paul Graff as he faces life and a growing understanding of his own advantages in Queens, N.Y. in the 1980s. Introverted and creative, Paul feels out of place among his school peers until he strikes up a surprising friendship with an African-American classmate, Johnny, and learns how his own troubles don’t compare to those of his friend. Banks Repeta and Jaylin Webb are touching and genuine as the two boys. The supporting cast includes Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong as Paul’s parents, and Anthony Hopkins as his beloved grandfather. [A tangential thought: although Hathaway, Strong, and Hopkins are all talented actors, it is strange to see them, especially Hopkins, playing Jewish characters. None of them identify as Jewish, and it is occasionally a challenge in the film to see them as such.]
Gray could have made his cinematic point more convincingly with fewer subplots, but the movie remains quietly powerful all the same.