Armageddon Time

It’s possible for film directors to make entertaining semiautobiographical coming-of-age movies about their childhoods. Steven Spielberg recently took a pretty good whack at it with The Fabelmans. Kenneth Branaugh did it even better with Belfast.

This time James Gray, who made Ad Astra, The Lost City of Z, and Little Odessa, guides us through the first exposures of a Jewish kid (played by Banks Repeta) to casual antisemitism and racism.

Jeremy Strong plays his dad, Anne Hathaway his long-suffering mother (but strangely with zero sparkle, which I think is against some kind of Hollywood rule). Jaylin Webb plays his school chum, the only black kid in the class. Anthony Hopkins is his wisdom-spouting grandpa.

It’s a well-made, if stagey, emotionally intelligent drama about learning life’s lessons. But while it avoids gauzy nostalgia, it’s so gentle and understated that it walks the cusp of dull, and what we take away from the theater is that Gray had a pretty average childhood. (114 min)