First Reformed

Rated 5.0

“Wisdom is holding two contradictory truths in our mind at the same time,” says Toller, the disturbed and disillusioned pastor played by Ethan Hawke in Paul Schrader’s masterful First Reformed. If that sentiment holds true, then First Reformed is easily one of the wisest movies of the last decade, a film that glides on a knife’s edge of seemingly unresolvable contradictions. Unable to pray anymore, the self-destructive Toller chronicles his life as caretaker of a centuries-old country church in his diary, all the while numbing himself with alcohol and fighting off human intimacy. An attempt to counsel a parishioner’s troubled environmentalist husband, as well as general despair about the state of the planet, inexorably lead Toller towards a horrifying moral crossroads. Longtime Robert Bresson superfan Schrader structures the film like Diary of a Country Priest, sprinkles in the scathing despair of Bergman and envelops the entire thing with his own sensual and spiritual obsessions.