REVIEW / FILM REVIEW – After the space odyssey of “Ad Astra”, James Gray returns to New York with “Armageddon Time”. The filmmaker plunges back into his youth and takes the viewer to Queens where he grew up, delivering one of his most successful family fables coupled with a powerful political statement.
Armageddon Time : together for the end of the world
Throughout his career, James Gray has made the family his central theme and has not always taken a tender look at the subject. Recently, the filmmaker filmed a cruel space confrontation between a son and his father in Ad Astra. If the sadness of the feature film has not dissipated in Armageddon Timeanger and abandonment have given way to forgiveness.
The drama begins at the dawn of the 80s in the neighborhood of Queens, where the director spent most of his childhood. As Kurtis Blow and the Sugarhill Gang resonate on the radio waves and the United States is about to experience a great period of change with the arrival of Ronald Reagan in power, the young Paul Graff (Michael Banks Repeta) makes his enters sixth grade and multiplies the nonsense with his friend Jonathan (Jaylin Webb).
Only his grandfather Aaron (Anthony Hopkins) manages to channel him, while his parents Esther (Anne Hathaway) and Irving (Jeremy Strong) struggle to assert their authority. Their existence will be turned upside down by several events, including the fear of a nuclear war generated by the election of the new president.
Armageddon Time initially disconcerts the viewer. James Gray connects the moments of life, focusing on eventful meals, outbursts of violence and overwhelming demonstrations of love, thus transcribing the daily life of a modest but united family, still marked by the memory of the Second World War.
At the same time, the carefree Paul does the 400 strokes and develops his talents for drawing, encouraged by his grandfather and his mother. With them, nothing can happen to him and the sublime autumnal photography of Darius Khondji never alters the warmth emanating from the hearth, on which James Gray poses a tender but nuanced looknot forgetting to show the mistakes of parents and the pressure in the face of financial difficulties.
America, land of all possibilities and merit
It is when everything begins to crumble that the viewer understands where James Gray wants to take him. Helpless in the face of their rascal’s behavior, Esther and Irving decide to enroll him in the strict Kew-Forest School, of which the wealthy real estate developer Fred Trump is one of the administrators, proud to have enrolled his children Maryanne and Donald there. .
By integrating this establishment, Paul discovers the meaning of the word “elite” as well as the supposed benefits of meritocracy, but also racism and the gap between social classes. Notions which are expressed in particular through the rejection of his comrades, and which do not help him to get better. Added to this are several dramas that a child can hardly carry on his frail shoulders. Like the young Antoine Doinel of François Truffaut’s classic, the boy will therefore lose one’s care.
A perfect interpretation
If the young Michael Banks Repeta impresses, difficult not to remember above all the performances of his adult partners. In the shoes of a mother who can’t get angry and who does everything she can to ensure that her son doesn’t grow up too quickly, Anne Hathaway gives the film some of its finest sceneslike a crushing shot where, back in her car, she observes Paul experiencing one of the most important moments of his life.
Jeremy Strong continues to prove that he is one of the most talented actors of the moment. The tense Kendall Roy of Succession here gives way to a clumsy father, oscillating between absolute tenderness and harshness. One of his final exchanges with Paul is worth the trip to the cinema on its own, summarizing a father’s inability to protect his child and the need to confront him with the injustices that surround him. Finally, after The FatherAnthony Hopkins inherits a new major role in his career. Luminous figure ofArmageddon TimeAaron is the character who reminds us that the end of the world is not for now, even if the sunny spells are rare.
Armageddon Time by James Gray, in theaters soon. Find all our trailers here.