Paul Schrader’s First Reformed has landed with stellar reviews across the board. I greatly admire Paul Schrader’s world view overall, going all the way back to the beginning of his career and even now, as he ruminates on the changing world at hand. He’s an original thinker if there ever was one – someone who questions everything. That makes him always a compelling storyteller.
AO Scott at the NY Times writes, that the film “wrestles with contemporary reality, but it isn’t a work of realism in the way that term is conventionally understood. The dialogue is delivered with formal, almost stiff cadences, and the images are crisp, graceful and plain. This austerity isn’t meant to capture the rhythms of ordinary existence, but rather to present a heightened, filtered, clarified picture of what that existence might mean. It asks us to take another look at what we think we know about politics, religion and other things we like to argue about, and asks nothing more than our quiet attention.
There is something radical about that, and about Mr. Schrader’s stubborn faith in movies.” He closes it by saying First Reformed “is an assertion of order in the face of chaos, an effort to organize something that is by its very nature an unholy mess: one person’s life.”
And TIME’s Stephanie Zacharek writes:
Feeling down about dying polar bears, deforestation and the state of the world in general? Paul Schrader’s beautiful, bruising First Reformed is the movie for you. Ethan Hawke is superb as Toller, an ex–military chaplain reckoning with a painful past. He’s been made the pastor of a tiny, historic church in upstate New York, which should be a balm for him. But even though he spends his days trying hard to do the Lord’s work – extending particular kindness to an anxious young wife and mother-to-be, played with tremulous sensitivity by Amanda Seyfried – his nights become intense sessions of journal keeping and destructive drinking.