“Armageddon Time” is a coming-of-age story set in the 1980s. Paul Graff, (Banks Repeta) is in the sixth grade and is trying to understand the expectations of his public school, his family, and his eventually his private school. Each of these “life classrooms” seems to value a different thing which causes Paul to navigate his understanding of whom he wants to grow up to be, an artist, versus what each place wants him to grow up to be.
In public school, Paul befriends Johnny (Jaylin Webb) the “troublemaker” in class. Johnny who is repeating the sixth grade is also navigating life from boyhood to his teenage years. However, unlike Paul, Johnny has no family support or supervision and is fighting against a system that is not designed to help him. Still, like Paul holding onto his childhood dream to be an Artist, Johnny also holds his dream to be an astronaut, and the two of them bond over being supportive of each other.
Meanwhile, at home, Paul’s family does not support his dream to be an artist because it’s not a proper “job” that pays the bills. His mother (Anne Hathaway) and Father (Jeremy Strong) are supportive in the way you would expect from a middle-class family. Work hard, get a good education and find a good job that you can make a living on. We see various family dynamics where a young immature Paul, challenges his parents and faces the consequences of his actions because he does not fully grasp the responsibilities of becoming an adult.
The one supporter of Paul’s dreams and the moral compass of the family is his grandfather (Anthony Hopkins). Hopkins delivers yet another stellar performance, providing support for Paul and his dreams, while also providing him sage-like wisdom when Paul comes to him confused about his surroundings. Perhaps the one message given to Paul above all is when he tells Paul to always be a “mensch,” a person of integrity, morality, and dignity especially when being supportive of your friends in troubled times.
This advice is at odds when Paul eventually ends up in an “elite” private school where he is somewhat of an outlier to the rich and entitled students. It is here that Paul is exposed to casual racism and elitism and Paul is faced with the struggle of wanting to fit in and do well to not disappoint his parents, while also not disregarding Johnny whose life is starting to spiral.
In addition to Hopkins, most of the cast deliver strong performances. Both Hathaway and Strong are excellent in their portrayal of parents trying to hold it all together. While Repeta and Webb are excellent together and individually in portraying the innocence and ignorance of being young while also being shaped by the world around them.
Ultimately, we are given a coming-of-age story that highlights just how confusing it can be when each part of your life appears to value different things.
3.5 out of 5 stars