First Reformed (2017)

First Reformed (2017)

2017 108 Minutes

Thriller | Drama

Reverend Ernst Toller is a solitary, middle-aged parish pastor at a small Dutch Reform church in upstate New York on the cusp of celebrating its 250th anniversary. Once a stop on the Underground Ra...

Overall Rating

8 / 10
Verdict: Good

User Review

  • WHAT I LIKED: Paul Schrader's 'First Reformed,' broadcasts a fairly polemic view about how the hypocritical religious establishment is complicit in the destruction of the Earth through its story of a troubled vicar who slowly comes around to the extreme ideals of one of his patrons. Undoubtedly then, it's interesting to see it tackled on screen - particularly in such an unflinching and uncompromising way - and that's especially the case when it's a view point that I share to some extent.

    WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The problem with it though isn't that controversy or its single-mindedness, it's really that it's a film without an engaging character narrative to cling to because it never really gets under the skin of Ethan Hawke's vicar character. That's partly down to the performance, but it's mostly because there's little attachment to the spiritual or the emotional in the script or in the filmmaking itself as there are no points that we get to see the humanity beyond his frustration and eventual conflicted anger. That's especially problematic considering that the film takes so long to get to the thematic point, so in the end you'll sit bored and disconnected from the whole thing until the polemic view comes and slaps you in the face at the end.

    VERDICT: A film that broadcasts a polemic view-point very directly, Paul Schrader's 'First Reformed,' is interesting, but a film with such a focus on its central character that fails to unlock any humanity there at all is no successful one in my eyes.