Paul Schrader’s probably most known as the guy who wrote Taxi Driver, and in that you had quite an extreme “male loner”, which is something he’s often explored through the films he’s tied too. And ultimately with First Reformed, let’s put it one way. This is supposedly his last film, and whereas his other associated films (especially Taxi Driver!) feel extreme, this has a much more spiritual approach, to the point most of the cinematography’s pared back too.
We see all of this through the eyes of Ethan Hawke as a priest (Ernst Toller), who’s son died in the Iraq War and goes under a faith crisis.
By the way at this point of the review i’d rather more talk about the film’s experience than story, because it’s quite curious. Lots of films, for example, you’d probably see in widescreen. Here Schrader plays with that and makes the aspect ratio (i’ll try not to get too geeky 😉 resemble a square instead, so what you watch feels like it’s through the eyes of a square, if you will. Take this with how the cinematography stands back and never gets in your face, and you’ve already got quite an interesting experience.
I’ll say a bit more about story then, before finishing this review. Toller (the priest) comes across Mary, played by Amanda Seyfried who puts up with her radical environmentalist husband and offers hope to Toller. This really stays in line with the idea of First Reformed being a spiritual film, and plays off really well.
Hopefully i’ve said enough to convince you to watch this film, because you need to! It’s going in my Top Ten 2018 films after all and we’ve still got four months!