First Reformed review - Ethan Hawke excels in quiet, intense character study
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Verditct: a haunting, intense film that's well worth a watch. The latest from writer-director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, American Gigolo), First Reformed is a powerful, contemplative character study anchored by a terrific central performance from Ethan Hawke as a troubled priest. Reverend Toller (Hawke) is a solitary Pastor at a small tourist church on the eve of its 250th anniversary. Mary (Amanda Seyfried) asks him to counsel her husband, a depressed environmentalist - this sends Toller spiralling towards a personal crisis of faith as he grapples with the torments of the past and his despair of the future. A story of quiet, deliberate introspection in the face of mounting despair and uncertainty, First Reformed slowly draws you in and builds up to a harrowing conclusion. Off the top of my head, the only two other movies that have made this anxious are Eye in the Sky and A Quiet Place - but more on that later. Ethan Hawke is superb here. Much of Reverend Toller's thoughts are conveyed through voice-over narration, which is pulled from a journal he keeps. Hawke's voice is soothing and urgent in equal measure. His performance is understated, perfectly conveying the burden on Toller's mind through subtle little touches. Make no mistake, First Reformed is a bleak film. It takes a meticulously minimalist approach to its pacing and cinematography which pairs well with the sombre tone. Visually striking in a cold kind of way.
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