First Reformed

Pulsating with thought and climaxing in heart-stopping action, First Reformed is a crisis-of-faith thriller starring Ethan Hawke and written and directed by Paul Schrader, the man who gave us Taxi Driver.

Hawke plays Ernest, a former military priest now in charge of a tourist attraction clapperboard church. He’s nervous and depressed, prone to drink and in a mess about the approaching 250th anniversary celebrations of the church. 

He’s then confounded by one his congregants’ loss of faith, a radical environmentalist driven by the impending doom of climate change. Ernest is also rather struck by the activist’s pregnant wife, Mary, played by Amanda Seyfried.

This is a chilling, conversational film, told blankly, as if down the barrel of a gun. Hawke gives his best-ever performance while Schrader re-discovers the philosophical daring that made him such as great force in 70s cinema. It’s a challenging, provocative movie quite unlike anything else out there, a film with punch leading to an ending you might find preposterous but which nevertheless works, so committed are the premise and the performance.