Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
We look at 'Fantasia' in a brand new episode of Ink & Paint - and don't forget to subscribe to our podcast!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.
Romantic Road - Falling in love with India, the Rolls Royce and each other
TRENDINGROMANTIC ROADFalling in love with India, the Rolls Royce and each other
The Personal History of David Copperfield - Charles Dickens' classic reimagined through a comedic lens
TRENDINGWIN THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELDCharles Dickens' classic reimagined through a comedic lens
Over the Limit - A real-life psychological thriller
TRENDINGOVER THE LIMITA real-life psychological thriller
Good Girls: Season 2 - It's never been so good to be bad
TRENDINGWIN GOOD GIRLS: SEASON 2It's never been so good to be bad
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Series 1-3 - The classic crime novels come to life
TRENDINGWIN AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MARPLE: SERIES 1-3The classic crime novels come to life
xXx: Return Of Xander Cage - The good, the bad and the ugly
TRENDINGxXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGEThe good, the bad and the ugly
God of the Piano - A tale that tickles the ivories
TRENDINGGOD OF THE PIANOA tale that tickles the ivories
About A Boy - All grown up 15 years on
TRENDINGABOUT A BOYAll grown up 15 years on
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
TRENDINGTHE VIOLIN PLAYERSex and strings
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
The Boys Who Said No! - Powering change through non-violence
TRENDINGTHE BOYS WHO SAID NO!Powering change through non-violence
Top End Wedding - Outback fantastic
TRENDINGTOP END WEDDINGOutback fantastic
Andrey Tarkovsky. A Cinema Prayer - Remembering a true master of film
TRENDINGANDREY TARKOVSKY. A CINEMA PRAYERRemembering a true master of film
River's Edge - The kids aren't alright
TRENDINGRIVER'S EDGEThe kids aren't alright
In My Blood It Runs - An eye-opening tale of struggling Indigenous youth
TRENDINGIN MY BLOOD IT RUNSAn eye-opening tale of struggling Indigenous youth
Dark Place - An unsettling Indigenous horror anthology
TRENDINGDARK PLACEAn unsettling Indigenous horror anthology
Buffy - A 20th anniversary love letter
TRENDINGBUFFYA 20th anniversary love letter
Leaving Allen Street - Following residents out of institutional care and into our hearts
TRENDINGLEAVING ALLEN STREETFollowing residents out of institutional care and into our hearts
The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale - An extremely silly zomedy
TRENDINGTHE ODD FAMILY: ZOMBIE ON SALEAn extremely silly zomedy
Beyond The River - An inspirational sporting journey
TRENDINGBEYOND THE RIVERAn inspirational sporting journey
© 2011 - 2020 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us