First Reformed

Director: Paul Schrader
Year Released: 2017
Rating: 3.0

Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke), the head of a small but historically significant church in New York state, receives a visit from a pregnant parishioner named Mary (Amanda Seyfried), who tells him her husband is going through a personal crisis over how mankind is treating the environment ... this forces Toller to re-examine his own past (his son was killed in combat) and mortality (he has serious health issues). Schrader, who grew up in a super strict Calvinist household (and even contemplated becoming a priest himself), is pulling together his own history as well as the spiritual musings of Dreyer, Bresson, Tarkovsky and Bergman: it works solidly for the first hour, when Serious Issues about faith and God's Will are discussed, but once it gets to The Magical Mystery Tour with Mary and Hawke becoming Father Travis Bickle it loses the austerity it started with. There are some solid ideas in here - particularly regarding capitalism and ecology - and it's clear that, for Schrader, it's coming from somewhere deep within his psyche (it's good to ask The Big Questions). It tries for greatness but fails (although Hawke is remarkable), but the attempt is worth a hearty round of applause.