Haiku Review: First Reformed

First Reformed
Written by Paul Schrader
Directed by Paul Schrader


SYNOPSIS
When the pastor of a quaint, 250 year old church has an eye-opening encounter with a congregant, his ensuing crisis of faith threatens everything around him.


HAIKU REVIEW

Icy Atmosphere;
Posing A Crucial Question;
Will God Forgive Us?


RATING:
**Watch in Theater Immediately**
Pickup at Redbox Upon Release
Stream on Netflix/Watch on Cable
Don’t Waste Your Time


ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

This is the kind of film that many will call a timeless masterpiece, while others leave the theater outright angry. I assume this based on my own experience, as the other four people in the theater with me seemed almost disgusted, storming out loudly while I watched the credits roll in awe. It’s slow, deliberate and as far from flashy as cinema can get. If you’re expecting popcorn fare, you have purchased the wrong ticket. This is a story about the struggle to hold onto faith in bleak times, and the feeling of powerlessness attached to hope in the face of dark realities. There is so much to unpack here, from Reverend Toller’s increasing concern for the environment (“Will God forgive us for what we’ve done to His creation?”) while simultaneously destroying his own body with intent, to a pregnant woman named Mary carrying the hopeful seed for the future and all the subtext that brings along. Issues of greed and corruption inside politics and religion are tackled but don’t feel as heavy-handed in such a personal story as they may in other films. And this is to say nothing of the third act (the less said, the better, so as to not cloud anyone’s judgment). The writing and direction are marvelous, and Hawke turns in a stunning performance worthy of an Oscar nod. The shot composition and sound design work together so brilliantly to convey a certain tone that keeps you at the edge of your seat, despite the pacing. You may think you’re watching a horror movie. And in a sense, you are. But rather than cheap jump scares, you’re trapped inside a man’s mind as small cracks turn into gaping chasms. I went in expecting a movie, but came out with an experience that legitimately shook me. 


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