Movie Review: First Reformed (2018)

Faith. Something a lot of people struggle with, regardless of which religion it is. And that’s all the religious talk I’m doing today, don’t wanna accidentally start a flame war (you commenters behave now).

Ladies and gentlemen… “First Reformed”.

Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is a priest in an old church. And he soon starts struggling with his faith as things around him start crumbling. So now we have our drama. And it’s great. The plot here features a lot of sensitive subjects, which could’ve absolutely gone sideways in the wrong hands. But they are handled beautifully here. It all comes together to create a plot that is haunting, dramatic, layered, and insanely engaging.

The characters in this are layered, flawed, realistic, and just really interesting. First up we have Ethan Hawke as reverend Ernst Toller, the man at the center of this story. He has a very tragic past that kind of comes back to haunt him as he experiences certain things throughout the plot here. Seeing him having to deal with his demons, while also dealing with other people’s problems is really fascinating, and gives him a good bit of development. And Hawke is fantastic in the role. Next we have Amanda Seyfried as Mary, a pregnant woman who comes to seek Toller’s counsel during a stressful time in her life. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that, as the rest of her arc is seen through the movie and I don’t wanna spoil it. But it’s good. And Seyfried is great in the role. We also get supporting performances from people like Cedric the Entertainer, Victoria Hill, Philip Ettinger, Michael Gaston, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Brian Williams and it was… fine. It’s just this low droning sound that shows up partway through the movie. While not bad, it feels a bit superfluous. We did fine without it, and suddenly it’s part of a couple scenes. Had it not been there I wouldn’t mind, it would’ve in fact given the general soundscape of the movie a bit more consistency. Again, not bad… just fine.

This movie was written and directed by Paul Schrader, who I think did a fantastic job. His direction is kind of cold and distant while still intimate to the character of reverend Toller. It really helps give the movie a unique feel of unease that I don’t think I’ve experienced elsewhere. I mean, movies have made me feel uneasy before, but not in the same way that “First Reformed” did. What also adds to it is the 1.37:1 aspect ratio. At first it caught me a bit off guard, but I quickly got used to it and thought it worked very well for the movie. And the cinematography by Alexander Dynan is pretty damn solid.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 85/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,1/10.

“First Reformed” won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it was a fantastic and unique drama. It has a great plot, really good characters, fantastic performances, okay music, and fantastic directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “First Reformed” is a 9,89/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “First Reformed” is now completed.

Amen.

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: First Reformed (2018)

  1. I hadn’t even heard of this, and usually enjoy Schrader’s films. Glad to see your positive review, I will look out for it. (I also recommend one of his older films, ‘Light Sleeper’.)
    Best wishes, Pete.

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