Movie Review: Armageddon Time (2022)

Now playing in select theatres from Focus Features.

Foisting an often unflattering, unremarkable personal memoir on the masses is a sure fire way to open oneself up to bruising judgment, especially when the memories intended to move or inspire simply feel dramatically inert. Writer/director James Gray’s Armageddon Time (C-) leverages his wistful recollections about being 12 years old in Queens, New York in the 1980s to moralize about the enduring state of affairs in the world. The retro atmosphere is all there, from toting metal lunchboxes, riding on the subway, touring the Guggenheim and playing in Flushing Meadows, but the film rarely gathers steam in any of its locales. Banks Repeta is the central boy learning retconned lessons about white privilege as he watches his Black friend played by Jaylin Webb get in trouble for mutual troublemaking. It feels like the protagonist isn’t really there; he’s just watching himself be an unsure tween, longing for better choices he could have made. Jeremy Strong and Anne Hathaway are believable but oddly written as the parents; the viewer will be unsure what to make of them exactly, and they have very little to do or say. Even a nice portrayal of the sage family grandfather by Anthony Hopkins feels perfunctory. There are indeed some life lessons lurking beneath the heavy handed plotting, but there are few revelations to draw viewers into this feature as essential viewing.

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