First Reformed (2018)
(R) 113 mins

The film opens in a church in a rural town in Upstate New York. Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke) hosts a young, pregnant woman (Amanda Seyfried) about difficulties sheís having with her husband (Philip Ettinger). He agrees to speak with him. The husband is convinced the world will be uninhabitable in 30 years; the reverend is merely trying to instill a small sense of optimism. Itís a fascinating conversation, discussing the responsibility of man to govern Godís creation.

So, youíd probably think the rest of the film would be a rumination of faith in the modern world. Well, youíd be wrong. The film takes a slight turn after this scene. Saying anything more about it would spoil it. But suffice it to say, the climax to the film is actually quite suspenseful, and itís very much earned.

As impressive as the script was, there are two things Iíll remember more than anything else. First, is the cinematography. Apart from a couple of scenes, it features a very drab color palette, and is a very fixed, narrow screen (as opposed to the very wide screen en vogue). Each shot is carefully chosen, and typically says a lot about the scene. The second thing is Ethan Hawke, who steals the show. Reverend Toller is an incredibly complex character; his past has clearly affected him deeply, yet he still demonstrates his desire to do whatís best for his constituents. But whatís truly incredible is watching his incremental changes throughout the film. Itís very subtle, but distinct. Itís by far the best performance of his lengthy career.

+4


Oscar Nominations
Best Original Screenplay