a man of God, lost
finding purpose in darkness
and bliss in a cup
The film begins with a perfectly centered shot of a church at dawn, the camera slowly pushing in as the sky lightens.
Within ten seconds, you know you’re in the hands of a pro, and the pro here is Paul Schrader.
In a way, this movie is reminiscent of one of Schrader’s earlier works, Taxi Driver, which he wrote. I’m not usually a fan of voiceovers, but I make my exceptions with Schrader and Terrence Malick, because these aren’t really voiceovers per se. Voiceovers can easily become a crutch in a film, the laziest way to info-dump, but in this movie, it serves to build character more than anything else.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to watch this movie with as little information as possible. All I knew was that Ethan Hawke plays a priest (turns out to be a minister) who’s lost his way. That’s all you need to know.
First Reformed is a work of art. I think that’s the highest praise you can accord a film, and this movie deserves every bit. Taxi Driver is a movie written by a young man; it possesses that raw, unbridled energy. First Reformed is a movie written and directed by an older, wiser man, and it’s full of grace and beauty. Best movie I’ve seen this year so far, hands down.