Dan Says FIRST REFORMED Is A Dark And Haunting Tale.

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FILM REVIEW: FIRST REFORMED

BY DAN SKIP ALLEN

Paul Schrader is no stranger to hard hitting subject matter. He collaborated with Martin Scorsese in films that dive deep into such instances of individuals going through a lot of pain be it emotionally or figuratively like those in the like of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out the Dead. First Reformed is as hard, painful and emotional as it gets.

Ethan Hawke plays Reverend Toller a man who oversees a small church in upstate New York.. He gets a phone call from Mary Manzano, played by Amanda Seyfried, the wife of an unstable man named Michael. She asks Toller if he would meet with her husband to talk with him. Michael has concerns about the environment and a local company named Balq Industries. Toller comes to find out Michael is an activist. The real shocking thing though is he wants his wife to have an abortion because he doesn’t want to raise a child in a world that is destroying itself.

Slowly things come to light when it is discovered that a pastor Jeff Jeffer, played by Cedric the Entertainer, who consults Toller every now and again who resign at a neighboring church, Abundant Life, service the head of Balq industries. The plot develops in forms of tragedy and lost as the movie continues. Actions of each character contribute to the continuing themes of how can one live in such a world that seems as if it had nothing to offer. Toller himself must deal with the tribulations of his actions and the outcomes of his uncertainties which are magnificently written.

Ethan Hawke has widely been considered a great actor. He chooses a lot of indie or cutting-edge roles such as last year’s Maudie where he played Everett a reclusive fisherman and the triumphant Oscar nominated Best Picture Boyhood which  encompassed a total of 12 years in the making.as well. That being said, this is the best performance from Ethan Hawke in years. Not saying he doesn’t give great performances because he does, as his past works will show but this whole film is him starting to fall apart physically and mentally in ways we have not seen from him. From all of the weight of death, loneliness and conflicts. He spirals down to a dark place. Hawke puts it all on the screen and delivers the performance of the year and is accompanied by a tremendous ensemble cast. Paul Schrader crafts a dark and haunting view of life from this tortured man that will leave audience members shook but with new enlightenment.

 

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