Ethan Hawke plays a pastor struggling with his faith and the secular world.
First Reformed was lauded at 2017 Venice Film Festival and this year’s SXSW Festival, seeing a tale of faith told in the tense mood and dialogue of writer-director Paul Schrader.
Toller (Hawke), an ex-military-man-turned-pastor in upstate New York, blames his soldier son's death on himself. His worldview changes radically when Toller offers church service to the widow (Amanda Seyfried) of a deceased activist. The modern life creeps in on old values, and the tormented man of faith is well-realized in Hawke's nuanced performance. Here's the first trailer:
Schrader made his name known in the 70s and 80s by writing the scripts for Martin Scorsese's acclaimed films like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Last Temptation of Christ. Seen in one of his best works, Affiction, Schrader's favorite topic is the depiction of gritty men lost in an ideological challenge, which leads to heartbreaking violence. It seems fitting for the tone of First Reformed, as a review called it "an outrageous update of Taxi Driver for a world of Liveleak videos and climate change."
Schrader also makes a interesting visual choice as the tight frames box the characters in confined space. It sets the mood for the psychological and philosophical medication of the characters, reminiscing the style of Schrader's directorial influences like Ingmar Bergman and Robert Bresson. First Reformed looks like Schrader's filmmaking reformation (excuse the pun) after his recent unimpressive films.
First Reformed is released by A24 on June 22, 2018.
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