Not everyone will want to watch this serious drama. It was written by Paul Schrader, screenwriter of several Martin Scorsese films, including Taxi Driver. First Reformed was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards, Schrader’s first nomination. It is rated R for some disturbing violent images.
Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is the minister at the historical First Reformed Church in upstate New York. Unlike the nearby mega church, shepherded by Reverend Jeffers (Cedric Kyles), Toller’s services are sparsely attended and the building itself, as a historic landmark, mainly attracts sightseers.
Mary (Amanda Seyfried), a young parishioner, asks Toller to speak with her husband Michael (Philip Ettinger). He is a depressed young man, and a committed environmental activist. Once Toller meets Mary and Michael, his life changes in unforeseen ways.
I read that Paul Schrader considers First Reformed his masterpiece. It grapples with questions of faith, forgiveness, and morality, especially in the area of environmental care versus degradation. Do we choose despair or hope in these times? The story contrasts the two congregations and how different they are quite effectively; the one outdated and traditional, the other hip and trendy. The mega church seems overly fixated on expansion with wealthy donors of questionable financial dealings funding the bill. Reverend Toller on the other extreme, is a thoughtful religious man, with his own personal pain, and physical concerns that worsen over time.
I thought the actors all did a good job with their roles. The screenplay was thoughtful, up until the ending that was confusing and very strange. Did you see First Reformed? What did you make of that ending?