Widely regarded by critics as one of the best films of the year — a summation of Paul Schrader’s career spelling out a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Ethan Hawke — FIRST REFORMED continues as our main feature during the week of June 22nd.
Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) 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 Railroad, the church is now a tourist attraction catering to a dwindling congregation, eclipsed by its nearby parent church, Abundant Life, with its state-of-the-art facilities and 5,000-strong flock. When a pregnant parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) asks Reverend Toller to counsel her husband, a radical environmentalist, the clergyman finds himself plunged into his own tormented past, and equally despairing future, until he finds redemption in an act of grandiose violence. From writer-director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver; American Gigolo; Affliction) comes a gripping thriller about a crisis of faith that is at once personal, political, and planetary. (2018, Paul Schrader, 108 mins, USA, English, CC available, R, DCP)
“Mr. Schrader…is 71, and has had a long and varied career, but “First Reformed” nonetheless feels like a fresh discovery. More than that: an epiphany.” — A. O. Scott, The New York Times
“First Reformed is a stunner, a spiritually probing work of art with the soul of a thriller, realized with a level of formal control and fierce moral anger that we seldom see in American movies.” — Justin Chang, NPR
“A stunning, enrapturing film, a crowning work by one of the American cinema’s most essential artists.” — Godfrey Cheshire, RogerEbert.com
“An act of spiritual inquiry, a coolly assured example of cinematic scholarship in subtly deployed motion and one of the strongest pictures of 2018.” — Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune
“Singular in its distillation of Schrader’s decades-spanning preoccupations of film criticism and filmmaking as well as his religious background, First Reformed is a rare object unified in subject and style.” — Aliza Ma, Film Comment Magazine