Remembering without nostalgia in “Armageddon Time”

Published 1:03 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2022

This week, “Armageddon Time” arrives at Tryon Theatre, a dramatically-titled coming of age 

story set in Queens during the ever-increasing nuclear tensions of 1980. 


The global tensions that inspire the title of the film are largely relegated to the background. Ultimately, this is a deeply personal film, concerned with the emotional trajectory of one character, Paul (Banks Repeta), as he navigates his childhood. This film is directed by James Gray, as he explores the semi-autobiographical format, reflecting his own familial and formative experiences in the scope of Paul’s story. 


In its depiction of Paul’s experiences, “Armageddon Time” sidesteps the typical nostalgic portrayal of childhood for a more somber portrait of a child’s emotional experiences. The film has a constant fluidity of not-yet-fully-understood emotion that is so definitive of childhood. “Armageddon Time” is a coming-of-age story, of the age when childhood still holds unknown promise and potential. 


As the title reflects, the film is set amongst the myriad anxieties of the era. 1980 was square in the middle of fomenting tensions that would come to a head in 1983, bringing the world the closest to nuclear war it had been since the Cuban Missile Crisis. While Paul’s individual world is not concerned with such tensions, the weight of this existential crisis permeates his existence, weighing down the psyches and emotions of the adults in his life. Additionally, this time was further complicated by the economic and racial tensions that are largely unintelligible to the mind of a child. 


For a film that weaves many complicated and weighty subjects into its narrative, “Armageddon Time” is not necessarily concerned with any of these subjects as a focal point. It is a film that is focused first and foremost on the main character and his emotional and personal development, reflecting a more realistic depiction of life. 


Life is not defined by a linear and clear narrative, but rather it is composed of overlapping and intersecting moments and experiences, all of which leave a mark, shaping us, both internally and externally, consciously, and unconsciously. 


The narrative of the film is simple, but without a definitive climax. We occupy the emotional and mental spectrum of Paul, during a formative few months of his young life. We hope you will join us, and appreciate the lessons we can all take from the innocence and compassion of a child in the face of adversity.