WARNING: NO SPOILERS
When you see First Reformed there are a few things that will grab your attention immediately. That includes the performances, the cinematography etc. as these are the things that we see. But where the film really succeeds is in what it does not show. That would include the motivation and feelings of the characters. I was completely engrossed by this film from start to finish but I’m not quite sure of how to word my love for it.
This is a good thing as it means that the film made me think. And that is what a lot of First Reformed is about. It makes you ponder about a lot of things. We can sense the world around Ethan Hawke’s Reverend, disintegrating due to a lot of factors. As the film goes on, this becomes more and more apparent to us and we understand why he is behaving this way. There are a lot of layers that are not visible on the surface as it requires the viewer to dig deeper.
More than anything, this film is proof, of the power present in the words and scenes that come from the mind of Paul Schrader. The film’s power lies in how understated it is. It is not flashy at all, even when dealing with heavy themes. A large part of the credit goes to the performance of Ethan Hawke who adds another milestone to his already amazing career. As a man questioning his faith and morality, it is wonderful to see him struggle to keep his calm. I just have to make this tiny observation about the way Hawke acts. His way of delivering dialogue makes every word mean something.
Normally, you would expect a character like this to have that one moment where they burst and let all their emotions out. First Reformed subverts our expectations in an interesting way. And when the emotions bubbling inside, do come out, it feels like a nasty uppercut to the viewer. And since you didn’t expect it to be this way, it becomes even more powerful. When the film does talk about a particular theme, it is not in your face but it is subtle in its expression. This allows the viewer to interpret it in their own way. And what makes the film even better is the ending, it is a left hook and it’s a knockout.
Until next time, bye.