Tuesday, June 12, 2018

First Reformed

The journal kept by Rev. Toller (Ethan Hawke) in Paul Schrader's First Reformed doesn't seem to be serving as a recollection of his day's events. Instead, its purpose appears to be the release of a troubled man's musings. And as the film progresses, we see just how unhinged Toller is.

As many of Schrader's previous films have shown, First Reformed has a particularly jaded perspective from Rev. Toller. He had tried to vainly to maintain an idealistic view on the world but with his health failing and his faith being tested, he finds it nearly impossible to be the man of the cloth he appears to be. What is his limit?

Parallels to Taxi Driver are hard to ignore as one watches First Reformed. (One shot in the later film is practically an allusion to the earlier one.) But it bears more resemblance to Bringing Out the Dead in their shared weariness in the protagonists. They've seen the horrors of the world they're a part of and are now numb to everything around them.

Hawke has been delivering a number of solid performances these last few years but First Reformed is easily the best of his career. His Rev. Toller is a complicated figure (a staple in Schrader's works), haunted by his past mistakes and uncertain of what his future holds for him. It's when a concerned parishioner steps forward that his fate is ultimately sealed. And Hawke tackles the role brilliantly.

First Reformed firmly solidifies Schrader's status as a writer in Hollywood. (Just in case his previous work didn't already prove that.) He provides an unflinching commentary on humanity itself, how it's cruel to those who aren't willing to conform to it. And the end result will stay in your mind long after it finishes.

My Rating: *****


  1. Great review here. I'm so happy you liked this one too. I totally agree, this movie has been trapped in my mind ever since I saw it. Really hope Hawke garners some awards attention.

    1. Let's just hope it'll finally get Schrader a nomination.


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