Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Schrader|
|Written by||Paul Schrader|
|Edited by||Benjamin Rodriguez Jr.|
|Box office||$3.8 million|
First Reformed is a 2017 American drama film written and directed by Paul Schrader. It stars Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, and Cedric Kyles, and follows a Protestant minister faced with questions of faith and morality while serving as pastor of a dwindling historical church.
First Reformed was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2017, and was theatrically released in the United States on May 18, 2018, by A24. The film was acclaimed by critics, with specific praise for Hawke's performance and Schrader's screenplay and direction, and was chosen by both the National Board of Review and American Film Institute as one of the Top 10 Films of 2018. At the Independent Spirit Awards, the film received nominations for Best Film, Best Male Lead (Hawke), Best Director and Best Screenplay.
Reverend Ernst Toller of the First Reformed Church in Snowbridge, New York is writing down his thoughts in a journal for a year, after which he intends to destroy it. First Reformed, a 250-year-old Dutch Reformed Church, faces dwindling attendance under Toller's leadership, which has taken the church in a new direction and away from its historical focus on Reformed theology. In trying to manage his own life issues, Toller seeks a deeper experience through reading Roman Catholic (Thomas Merton and G.K. Chesterton) and mystical books (The Cloud of Unknowing). This new spiritual direction leads him to seek support from a nearby charismatic megachurch, Abundant Life, which owns the historical landmark, and previous stop on the Underground Railroad.
Toller, a former military chaplain, is struggling with the death of his son Joseph, who was killed in the Iraq War after Toller encouraged him to enlist in the armed forces. He meets Mary, who is seeking counseling for her radical-environmentalist husband, Michael, further challenging his beliefs. Michael explains that he wants Mary to get an abortion, because he does not want to bring a child into a world that will be rendered almost uninhabitable by climate change.
Mary finds a suicide vest belonging to her husband in their garage. Toller takes it, promising to counsel Michael about it. Mary and Toller discuss going to the police, but Toller feels it would dramatically worsen Michael's state. Just before their next appointment, Michael sends Toller a text message asking to meet in a local park; Toller arrives to find Michael dead of a self-inflicted shotgun wound. Following Michael's will and testament, his ashes are scattered in a service at a local toxic-waste dump. Meanwhile, plans are underway to celebrate the sestercentennial of First Reformed with a service attended by the mayor, governor, and a notable industrialist, Edward Balq, who sponsors Abundant Life. At a diner meeting, Toller argues with Balq over climate change, which Balq dismisses as "complicated", but Toller sees it as a straightforward matter of Christian stewardship.
Experiencing various physical pains, Toller reluctantly sees a doctor, who suspects stomach cancer and schedules tests. Using Michael's laptop, which he took after his suicide to prevent the police discovering his radicalism and making trouble for Mary, Toller researches Michael's concerns further, including the materials which inspired him to make the explosive vest. One night, Mary visits Toller in the parsonage of the church, and he plays Michael's role in a nonsexual rite of physical intimacy that the couple used to perform.
Toller begs Mary not to attend the anniversary service. Preparing for his role in the ceremony, he puts on the explosive vest, and arms it. Seeing that Mary has in fact come to the service, he removes the vest and instead wraps himself in barbed wire under his vestment robe, and prepares to drink a lethal dose of drain cleaner. Mary interrupts him, and they embrace, kissing passionately.
- Ethan Hawke as Ernst Toller
- Amanda Seyfried as Mary Mansana
- Cedric Kyles as Joel Jeffers
- Victoria Hill as Esther
- Philip Ettinger as Michael Mansana
- Michael Gaston as Edward Balq
- Bill Hoag as John Elder
In September 2017, A24 acquired distribution rights to the film. It was theatrically released in the United States on May 18, 2018. It has also screened in a number of film festivals, among them the New Zealand International Film Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival.
First Reformed grossed $100,270 from four theaters in its opening weekend, an average of $25,068 per venue, one of the best of Schrader's career.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 93% based on 203 reviews, and an average rating of 8.3/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Brought to life by delicate work from writer-director Paul Schrader and elevated by a standout performance by Ethan Hawke, First Reformed takes a sensitive and suspenseful look at weighty themes." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 85 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|American Film Institute||January 4, 2019||Top 10 Films of the Year||First Reformed||Won|||
|Detroit Film Critics Society||December 3, 2018||Best Picture||First Reformed||Nominated|||
|Best Director||Paul Schrader||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Ethan Hawke||Won|
|Best Screenplay||Paul Schrader||Nominated|
|Gotham Awards||November 26, 2018||Best Feature||First Reformed||Nominated|||
|Best Screenplay||Paul Schrader||Won|
|Best Actor||Ethan Hawke||Won|
|Audience Award||First Reformed||Nominated|
|Independent Spirit Awards||February 23, 2019||Best Film||Jack Binder, Greg Clark, Gary Hamilton, Victoria Hill, David Hinojosa, Frank Murray, Deepak Sikka and Christine Vachon||Pending|||
|Best Director||Paul Schrader||Pending|
|Best Male Lead||Ethan Hawke||Pending|
|Best Screenplay||Paul Schrader||Pending|
|National Board of Review||January 8, 2019||Top 10 Films||First Reformed||Won|||
|Best Original Screenplay||Paul Schrader||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle||November 29, 2018||Best Actor||Ethan Hawke||Won|||
|Best Screenplay||Paul Schrader||Won|
|Satellite Awards||February 17, 2019||Best Independent Film||First Reformed||Pending|||
|Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama||Ethan Hawke||Pending|
|Best Original Screenplay||Paul Schrader||Pending|
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