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After essentially lying dormant for many years, Paul Schrader emerges rejuvenated with his masterpiece in hand. After penning Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, what’s a creative mind do to get back into that size arena? You can’t. Or can you? By also directing this, such a personal and honest film, Schrader does just that with First Reformed. People will now directly tie this film back to his 2-punch glory era of writing - and with every ounce of due credit.
This absolutely astounding effort is no less than a modern day Winter Light (1963) but crazed and under the influence of Taxi Driver, desperately searching for purpose. What’s more, is it might be something so original that it will take time for us to fully catch up with it. The pain and struggle is so real watching a man of faith questioning forgiveness, as many of us have, take all the darkness around him as if to take away the pain of the world. Inevitably, any man will crumble and the downfall captured here is bone rattling.
Ethan Hawke is tasked to connect and sew such a heavy load of dialogue and thematic fabric but answers the call with his best performance to date. Despite being captivating in every department, every scene relies on Hawke and the results are often so shocking and so glorious that it’s the textbook definition of “see it to believe it” filmmaking. To honestly show the state of the fallen world we live in from all these angles and all these shades is inspiring from any medium.
*Blessed to of seen this (and discuss in depth with) my amazing, film loving parents.