Drama


First Reformed


MPAA Rating:
R
Genre:
Drama
Runtime:
113 mins
Stars:
Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer
Director:
Paul Schrader
Producer:
Jack Binder, Greg Clark, Gary Hamilton, Victoria Hill, David Hinojosa, Frank Murray, Deepak Sikka, Christine Vachon

Content at a Glance

1
Sex

Sex

Approved: 0-2 in any category

 

0:
none
1:
on-screen acts of romance
2:
infidelity; implied pre-marital sex or secondary lead characters with consequences
3:
inappropriate sexual relations without consequences
4-5:
graphic sexual activity is heard and/or seen
×
2
Language

Sex

Approved: 0-2 in any category

 

0:
none
1:
on-screen acts of romance
2:
infidelity; implied pre-marital sex or secondary lead characters with consequences
3:
inappropriate sexual relations without consequences
4-5:
graphic sexual activity is heard and/or seen
×
3
Violence

Violence

Approved: 0-2 in any category

 

0:
none
1:
on-screen acts of romance
2:
infidelity; implied pre-marital sex or secondary lead characters with consequences inappropriate sexual relations without consequences
4-5:
graphic sexual activity is heard and/or seen
×
3
Drugs

Drugs

Approved: 0-2 in any category

 

0:
none
1:
occasional drinking by secondary characters (i.e., man in bar)
2:
historically accurate use of alcohol and tobacco products
3:
continuous drinking and drug use common throughout
4-5:
drug/alcohol used many times by main character(s) shown in a positive light
×
0

Nudity

Approved: 0-2 in any category

 

0:
none
1:
baby’s behind; shirtless men, low cut shirts, short skirts seen occasionally on women
2:
rear nudity that is not suggestive such as skinny dipping from a distance; cleavage
3:
sexually suggestive and revealing clothing or underwear is common throughout
4-5:
frontal nudity
×
3
Other

Other

Approved: 0-2 in any category

 

Lead characters that exhibit disrespect for authority, lying, cheating, stealing, illegal activity, witchcraft or sorcery

0:
none
1:
mild-moderate with consequences
2:
moderate poor behavior
3:
moderate-heavy behavior with no consequences
4-5:
extreme portrayals, condoned or excused
×

Sex


no explicit sexuality, but sexual tension lurks among two main characters

Language


one use of "sh**"

Violence


a suicide, in which there is a gruesome aftermath; a character urinates and sees blood; a character sees a youtube image of a suicide bomber; a character performs a bloody and disturbing act of penance

Drugs


main character frequently drinks, although is not condoned

Nudity


No Information

Other


many themes involving faith and the christian church may be controversial discussion topics; some environmental messages


Trailer



Synopsis

A priest of a small congregation in upstate New York grapples with mounting despair brought on by tragedy, worldly concerns and a tormented past.


Movie Message

We need to talk about faith and doubt, humanity and spirituality, and anything that lies within those crosshairs. At one point in Paul Schrader's film, someone is encouraged to value courage above reason. This is a film that does that by taking a quiet if daring leap into the unknown. It presents questions of faith that are rhetorical, and yet, somehow remains sermon-like at points. This is a film that takes a stroll on the darker yet also honest and investigative side of what it means to be a person of faith.



In short, we need to talk about First Reformed.



First, we must talk about what the film is not. Easily, audiences—and even others who have not yet seen the film—may be tempted to place the film into agenda-driven camps. It is not an environmentalist soundbite, trying to make a case for or against global warming. Nor is it a critique on the American church—not in its entirety, at least. First Reformed is about the constant personal and professional crises of self-proclaimed people of faith.



All of this sounds like Schrader's film is a puzzle box in identity, but really the cards are laid reasonably before us. Filmmakers have long been exploring big-picture themes of faith and doubt onscreen. First Reformed is the battle of the earthly and spiritual self, taking on the lens of reasonably relevant Christian writers like Thomas Merton. It finds the reverend of a small church in New York, Rev. Toller (Ethan Hawke), half past his life and riddled with loss. With one decision to help the husband of one of his loyal churchgoers (Amanda Seyfried), Toller begins a search within himself, threatening to exclude him from the real world and its problems.



If what Toller is doing and experiencing sounds vague, it is only because there is a certain ethereal mystery I want to preserve in Schrader's storytelling. This is a film with the proposition to challenge, a morality play that invites both sympathy and apathy and ways that simply must be discussed with others.



Aside from the philosophical scope of the film, Schrader's direction is stoic and restrained, recollecting the deep isolation he captured so exquisitely writing Taxi Driver in 1976. And Hawke delivers one of his best performances. Pervading every scene in the film, he is asked to play both ying and yang within himself, and the dance as an actor is never short of astounding.



This is, above all, a discussion-oriented film, not a family film. It does not receive a Dove-Approved Seal because of the intensity of the content. But if you're up for a challenge, bring a friend who will want discuss this interesting film afterward.

© The Dove Foundation – All Rights Reserved.




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