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  • Writer's pictureEmma Hanley

It's Armageddon Time!

Film@BirrTheatre is back for its 2023 season, bringing you the best of Irish, world and independent cinema on the theatre’s big screen. This week we bring you a stellar cast in an engaging coming-of-age drama.

Director James Gray sets his semi-autobiographical tale in 1980s New York and the movie boasts terrific performances from Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong and Anthony Hopkins.

Paul (newcomer Banks Repeta) is a middle-class Jewish-American boy who dreams of being an artist, much to the disapproval of his strict parents Esther and Irving. As a new school year starts, Paul befriends Johnny (Jaylin Webb) - the only Black student in his class, who wants to be an astronaut for NASA. Their friendship solidifies as they repeatedly find themselves getting into trouble at school. However, both boys learn difficult lessons about inequality and privilege when social workers come searching for Johnny.

Paul tells Johnny that he thinks The Beatles will get back together and that his family is “super-rich”. Neither statement is true. The family scenes, bursting with affection and banter, are brilliant. Anne Hathaway is a frazzled mother, Anthony Hopkins a wise and much-loved grandfather, and Jeremy Strong is the disciplinarian father with a terrible temper. Paul’s eyes are slowly opened to the reality of the social structure propped up around him. Politics are never far away: his left-leaning parents are disgusted by the barely disguised vitriol coming out of Ronald Reagan’s mouth as he campaigns to be President. Director Gray tackles important topics such as morality, class warfare and racism, but never with too heavy a hand, as Paul begins to see things from different perspectives.

This film looks back on the past with a mix of sadness, nostalgia and self-reflection.

“Perhaps James Gray’s best film so far” - The Irish Times, ★★★★

Come and join us on Thursday at 8pm for this week's instalment of Film@BirrTheatre!

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