Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
The Sydney Film Festival is wrapped up for 2019! Click here to check out our must-see films with the SWITCH team's reviews.x
review, First Reformed, First, Reformed, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric The Entertainer, Michael Gaston, Victoria Hill, Philip Ettinger, Bill Hoag, Elanna White, Dennis Michael Giammetta, Mahaleia Gray, Paul Schrader

FIRST REFORMED

★★★★

A METICULOUS DRAMA SIMULTANEOUSLY STUNNING AND OMINOUS

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Charlie David Page
8th August 2018

What will life be like in 2050? It’s a concept contemplated in ‘First Reformed’ - will the earth be a doomed desolate wasteland? Will future generations be subject to a spoiled world? But more importantly, would you be prepared to fight - to die - if you thought that it would change the outcome?

Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke, the ‘Before’ trilogy, ‘The Magnificent Seven’) is the pastor placed in charge of a small tourist church in upstate New York following the death of his son and breakdown of his marriage. He’s approached by the pregnant Mary (Amanda Seyfried, ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’, ‘Gringo’, ‘Les Misérables’), who is concerned about her husband Michael (Philip Ettinger, ‘Compliance’). Upon visiting Michael to offer him counsel, Toller realises he’s an environmental activist, with a negative outlook on humanity’s existence, and in crisis over whether he should be bringing a child into this world. Later, Mary discovers a suicide vest in their garage, and begs Toller to dispose of it. When the reverend learns that the biggest beneficiary of his church also happens to be one of the biggest environmental offenders, Toller begins to contemplate Michael’s beliefs as well as his own.

'FIRST REFORMED' TRAILER

The message throughout this film is certainly one which is at odds with politics in the United States currently - its unwavering and unapologetic stance on environmental issues makes for occasionally bleak viewing, especially paired with the message that extremism is the only valid response to the current situation. It debates the purpose of humanity and the futility of the future, as Toller tries to debate furiously for the beauty of life, whilst struggling below the surface with his own personal demons.

Much of this inner conflict and change comes down to the extreme talent of Ethan Hawke. He plays superbly this gruff, highly intelligent, intangibly broken pastor, yet even with his flaws, invokes an empathy from the audience that, most vitally, carries for the duration of the film. It’s matched perfectly in tone and credulity by Amanda Seyfried, in a defining role for her career - this is a very demure and restrained performance, and certainly one of the most adult roles she’s taken on to date.

Equally as on point as the cast is the direction. Paul Schrader (‘American Gigolo’) tackles this film with unwavering precision. From its sparse opening titles, there’s a deliberate effort to make the viewing of ‘First Reformed’ as uncomfortable as possible. There is no music used throughout, besides infrequent performances by choirs in the story itself, making the film incredibly desolate. It’s shot in a 1.37:1 ratio (the same as the old 4:3 for television), which makes each and every shot extremely claustrophobic. Even more dramatically, there’s nearly no movement of the camera at all - the slow, meticulous cinematography with its fixed shots and harshly symmetrical framing are simultaneously stunning and ominous. Characters walk in and out of frame, sometimes leaving the scene empty, and all too often, you’re left anticipating - dreading, even - what will happen.

There’s a deliberate effort to make the viewing of ‘First Reformed’ as uncomfortable as possible.

Despite the film’s near-pinpoint accuracy, there are a few elements which let it down. The end of the second act does become a little weighed down by contemplation, as Toller decides which path to take. The film is also unafraid to be brutal, and is often graphically confronting, sometimes when least expected, which may deter some audiences. Similarly, the ending is extraordinarily abrupt, and does leave much to your own contemplation. Without spoiling anything, be prepared for this story not to be neatly wrapped up.

For cinema with great impact, ‘First Reformed’ is an impressive experience. With the dedication shown by Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried, and Paul Schrader’s intensely focused direction and screenplay, this is an ominous contemplation on faith that stretches far beyond the realm of religion.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: TBA
RUN TIME: 1h 53m
CAST: Ethan Hawke
Amanda Seyfried
Cedric The Entertainer
Michael Gaston
Victoria Hill
Philip Ettinger
Bill Hoag
Elanna White
Dennis Michael Giammetta
Mahaleia Gray
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Paul Schrader
PRODUCERS: Jack Binder
Greg Clark
Gary Hamilton
Victoria Hill
David Hinojosa
Frank Murray
Christine Vachon
Deepak Sikka
www.FirstReformedMovie.com
FirstReformedMovie
FirstReformed
FirstReformedMovie
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
Looking for more Melbourne International Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
Yesterday - A new British comedy with a little help from The Beatles
TRENDINGWIN YESTERDAYA new British comedy with a little help from The Beatles
Yesterday - Great concept, disappointing execution
TRENDINGYESTERDAYGreat concept, disappointing execution
Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan - Close to home
TRENDINGDANGER CLOSE: THE BATTLE OF LONG TANClose to home
Toy Story 4 - Entertaining but thoroughly unnecessary
TRENDINGTOY STORY 4Entertaining but thoroughly unnecessary
Claire Darling - A French film fail
TRENDINGCLAIRE DARLINGA French film fail
The Final Quarter - Tackling a shameful chapter in AFL history
TRENDINGTHE FINAL QUARTERTackling a shameful chapter in AFL history
Standing Up For Sunny - A comedy without the comedy but very sweet
TRENDINGSTANDING UP FOR SUNNYA comedy without the comedy but very sweet
My Big Gay Italian Wedding - A ridiculously fun love story
TRENDINGMY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDINGA ridiculously fun love story
2040 - A hopeful look into our environmental future
TRENDING2040A hopeful look into our environmental future
Parasite - A bloodthirsty and very funny look at class warfare
TRENDINGPARASITEA bloodthirsty and very funny look at class warfare
Saturday Afternoon - A shocking and abrasive assessment of terrorism
TRENDINGSATURDAY AFTERNOONA shocking and abrasive assessment of terrorism
The Third Wife - Artistic, painful and beautiful
TRENDINGTHE THIRD WIFEArtistic, painful and beautiful
Kursk - When tragedy and bureaucracy collide
TRENDINGKURSKWhen tragedy and bureaucracy collide
Judy & Punch - A dark fairytale from a fresh Australian voice
TRENDINGJUDY & PUNCHA dark fairytale from a fresh Australian voice
The Nightingale - A blunt and brutal period piece
TRENDINGTHE NIGHTINGALEA blunt and brutal period piece
Blinded By The Light - The spiritual sequel to Bend It Like Beckham
TRENDINGBLINDED BY THE LIGHTThe spiritual sequel to Bend It Like Beckham
School of Seduction - Husband hunting in Russia
TRENDINGSCHOOL OF SEDUCTIONHusband hunting in Russia
The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir - An endearing tale of destiny
TRENDINGTHE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF THE FAKIRAn endearing tale of destiny
Back of the Net - Misses the net, and then some
TRENDINGBACK OF THE NETMisses the net, and then some
Gallipoli - A powerful and important film remembered
TRENDINGGALLIPOLIA powerful and important film remembered
© 2011 - 2019 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us