James Gray (The Immigrant, The Lost City of Z) delivers an exquisitely detailed and deeply emotional etching of a time and place: Queens, 1980. Set against the backdrop of a country on the cusp of ominous sociopolitical change, the film follows Paul Graff (Banks Repeta), a sixth grader who dreams of becoming an artist. At the same time that Paul builds a friendship with classmate Johnny (Jaylin Webb), who's mercilessly targeted by their racist teacher, he finds himself increasingly at odds with his parents (Jeremy Strong and Anne Hathaway), for whom financial success and assimilation are key to the family's Jewish American identity. Paul feels on firmest ground with his kind grandfather (a marvelous Anthony Hopkins), whose life experiences have granted him a weathered compassion. Rejecting easy nostalgia for a more difficult, painful form of recall, Gray's film is a perceptive and humane coming-of-age story that does what only cinema can do, elevating the smallest moments into the greatest drama.
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