‘First Reformed’ is one of those tough films to describe. It was described by Fandango as a thriller, and I went in with that frame of mind It incites thrill, alright, but in a whole different manner. It’s not a plot driven movie, as it is mostly a character study of Ernst Toller, a pastor of First Reformed Church somewhere in Upstate New York. he presides over one of those small churches that is only alive because of its historical significance. On any given Sunday, there are only a handful of parishioners who go there – most folks go to the mega church down the road. In fact, the same mega church funds First Reformed. I am not going to go over the rest of the plot, as I think it;’s mostly irrelevant. We see Toller spiral out of control because of a set of setbacks, among which he is urinating blood because of cancer, and has gotten involved in the life of two parishioners – a married couple with issues, and bo have they got issues.
The film is best seen through the eyes of observance – of how religion affects and influences people’s lives, of how humans deal with its significance. I have always thought that Ethan Hawke (who plays Toller) a fantastic actor, and he is great here, grunting and cursing and parishioning. It’s his career-best performance. Towards the end, the film turns fantastical and metaphysical, and it feels like you have stumbled upon a whole different movie, but I kept thinking about it, and its not making sense makes all the sense in the world. This film assaults you, and I bet you’ll welcome it.