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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

‘First Reformed’: A Riveting Tale of Lost Faith and Profound Existential Crisis

Movie poster for the film First Reformed starring Ethan Hawke

“First Reformed“ (2017) is a tense and riveting human drama starring Ethan Hawke as Reverend Ernst Toller, pastor at the "First Reformed Church" in the fictional town of Snowbridge, New York. As his congregation experiences declining attendance, Toller suffers his own crisis of faith sparked in part by the death of his son in the Iraq War.

Beleaguered by growing desperation and a profound crisis of faith, Toller comes into acquaintance with Mary (Amanda Seyfried), a pregnant young woman concerned about her husband Michael’s radical left-wing environmental activities. Terrified by the fact that Michael wants her to abort their child before it enter a world threatened by climate change, Mary grows close to Toller in her desperate search for guidance. Unaware of Toller’s own state of moral bankruptcy, Mary ultimately provides him with the very tools he needs to illicit revenge upon a society he no longer believes in, not sees fit to receive the word of the Lord.

Written and directed by Hollywood veteran Paul Schrader ("Taxi Driver”, “Light Sleeper”), “First Reformed” is a haunting depiction of lost faith and spiritual degradation, featuring an absolutely extraordinary performance by Hawke. His mesmerizing portrayal of Reverend Toller cements the story’s darkest undertones and helps to deliver a stunning and highly memorable depiction of abject self-destruction beset by ever-so-fleeting hints of hopefulness.


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