James Gray revisits his childhood with this nostalgic family chronicle, in the New York of the 80s.
After exploring the jungle (“The Lost City of Z”) and the cosmos (“Ad Astra”), James Gray returns home to New York and his favorite subject, the family, with “Armageddon Time” (to be released on November 9), a film selected in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and presented at the Deauville American Film Festival. The filmmaker (“Little Odessa”, “La nuit nous appartient”, “Two Lovers”, “The Yards”, “The Immigrant”) claims a “very personal” story, that of the passage to adulthood of a still very young man, Paul (played by Banks Repata).
A dreamy college student, gifted in drawing, an artist in the making, Paul lives in Queens, with a wise older brother, an inevitably protective mother (Anne Hathaway) and a father who can throw punches (Jeremy Strong), descendants of Jewish immigrants; for part of the family, originally from Ukraine, America was obviously “the land of dreams. And then there is his beloved grandfather, played by a touching Anthony Hopkins, a wise and warm patriarch, who provides complicity, support and unconditional love to his grandson.
James Gray revisits his childhood, makes a return on his past, his memories, reconstitutes the big family meals, with an “impression of lost time”, the nostalgia of a past time, the years 1980. The Reagan years, the beginning of the end of the Cold War, even if the future president brandished the threat of a nuclear end of the world and promised a future Armageddon. It is also the time of the exit of childhood for Paul and his friend Johnny (Jaylin Webb), a black kid, with whom he shares a passion for space, the models, the Apollo vignettes, and just begins their 400 coups.
The illusion of a classless society
A forbidden cigarette, smoked in the college bathroom, triggers a family fury; Paul’s parents decide to withdraw him from the public college and enroll him in a private school, with uniforms and briefcases, financed by the Trump family. It was the end of the world for the young boy, who was separated from his friend Johnny, who lived with his grandmother and found himself homeless. The little white boy, who discovers racism and the difficulty of opposing it, will have a second chance, which will not be granted to his friend. Unaware of their privileges, Paul’s parents just want a better life for their children. Living in the illusion of a classless society, without races, without inequalities, they visit with their family the beautiful neighborhoods, dreaming of living in one of those beautiful houses.
Breaking down the unattainable American dream, James Gray considers this family chronicle to be his “most lucid film”, shot with four words taped to the camera: “Love. Warmth. Humor. Loss”.
“Armageddon Time,” a film by James Gray, starring Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway, Banks Repata and Jaylin Webb (out November 9).