TL;DR – A deeply personal and emotional film that gets messy in all the best and worst ways.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Warning – Contains scenes of abuse.
Disclosure – I was invited to a screening of this film at the Brisbane International Film Festival.
Armageddon Time Review –
I have long said that I am perfectly fine with crying in the cinema during a film. If the movie’s emotions move me, then fantastic. Indeed I even have a list of them. But there is a bit of a difference between a single stoic tear making its way down the side of your face and ugly crying for so bard you need to freshen up in the bathroom afterwards. Today, we are looking at a film that, even with all its flaws, falls in the latter category.
So to set the scene, it is 1980 in Queens, New York City, on the first day of school. Paul Graff (Banks Repeta) is starting in a new school, and just minutes into the day, he is already getting in trouble with the teacher Mr Turkeltaub (Andrew Polk). Not a great start, but he does get to meet his new friend Johnny (Jaylin Webb), who also ires Turkeltaub. Paul is trying to find his place in a world that feels like it is about to get snuffed out at any moment, with only his grandfather Aaron Rabinowitz (Anthony Hopkins) being able to reach him. Much to his parents, Esther’s (Anne Hathaway) and Irving’s (Jaylin Webb) frustration.
I will likely be a broken record with other reviews, but I will open with just how robust Anthony Hopkins’ performance is. He is only here in a supporting capacity, but every moment he is on screen is a revelation. It was one of those rare performances where you felt like you were watching a real person, not an actor playing a role. I saw hints of my own grandfathers in places, and to say that it wrenched my heart, is not overstating it. He can captivate you with every word of dialogue, making you hold on to every note.
Not to focus my attention on just one of the actors, because Anne Hathaway also brings in a strong performance as a mother trying to hold everything together and barely succeeding. Like they are trying their best, it could all fall apart at any moment. Newcomers, Banks Repeta and Jaylin Webb, have the unenviable roles of keeping the primary narrative on track, and they mostly do. There are a couple of moments where they feel a bit out of place, but I could not tell you if that was the performance or the writing.
If I could describe the narrative, it would be a mess, but I mean that in both a positive and negative way. What we get with this film is a snapshot of a family’s lives over a year. Much like real-life, people’s lives are messy and inconsistent and don’t always fit into a nicely defined three-act structure. This gives the film time to tell these small vignettes like the power art has to capture your soul or how teachers struggle to teach creatively focused students. It also grounds the narrative in all its awkward family dinner moments.
However, that messiness also falls into the themes it wishes to explore. Having Paul be the audience’s point of view character is excellent when you need to explain something because he does not have decades of history to fall back on. But that inexperience seeps into the narrative when you see him doing things that are simply frustrating. You also see the messiness in the themes it tries to explore and is not always successful in doing so. This is exacerbated by the film having these moments where they clearly want to tell you something, i.e. Maryanne Trump (Jessica Chastain), but it just muddles around. Also, the film kind of just stops rather than ends, which will be frustrating for some.
In the end, do we recommend Armageddon Time? Look, I could probably say yes to the performances alone. However, you need to go into it knowing that the narrative will sometimes be frustrating, but it might still be worth it. If you liked Armageddon Time, we would recommend to you Babyteeth.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Armageddon Time
Directed by – James Gray
Written by – James Gray
Music by – Christopher Spelman
Cinematography by – Darius Khondji
Edited by – Scott Morris
Production/Distribution Companies – RT Features, MadRiver Pictures, Keep Your Head, Spacemaker Productions, Focus Features & Universal Pictures.
Starring – Banks Repeta, Jaylin Webb, Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Sell, Tovah Feldshuh, Dane West, Landon James Forlenza, Andrew Polk, Richard Bekins, Jacob MacKinnon, Domenick Lombardozzi, John Diehl & Jessica Chastain
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; Germany: 12; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: na; United States: R
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