2018 | 108 minutes | Rated R
Don’t make the mistake I made at the Telluride Film Festival when I skipped this unexpected magnum opus from the writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. Paul Schrader’s latest film is a return to form. Infused with elements from his Calvinist upbringing and 1950s art-house cinema (check out his newly reissued book Transcendental Style in Film on Bresson, Ozu, and Dreyer), First Reformed revolves around the Reverend Ernst Toller (portrayed with devastating restraint by Ethan Hawke). He is a former military chaplain ministering to a tiny congregation in upstate New York, and he can’t get past the deep grief and spiritual isolation caused by the ill-fated death of his enlisted son. When congregant Mary (Amanda Seyfried) asks him to counsel her troubled (and radical environmentalist) husband, Toller discovers his church’s distinguished financial savior is an amoral corporate polluter, and he becomes obsessed with saving a world he believes is destroying itself. The film also stars Cedric the Entertainer as a mega-church pastor and Toller’s overseer.
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