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First Reformed (2017)

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

Director:

Paul Schrader

Writer:

Paul Schrader
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Popularity
392 ( 57)
4 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ethan Hawke ... Toller
Amanda Seyfried ... Mary
Cedric the Entertainer ... Jeffers (as Cedric Antonio Kyles)
Victoria Hill ... Esther
Philip Ettinger ... Michael
Michael Gaston ... Balq
Bill Hoag ... Elder
Kristin Villanueva ... Nurse
Ingrid Kullberg-Bendz ... Middle-Aged Tourist
Ken Forman ... Middle-Aged Man (as Ken Foreman)
Christopher Dylan White ... College Student
Frank Rodriguez ... Sheriff
Gary Lee Mahmoud ... Doctor
Joseph Anthony Jerez ... War Vet in Wheelchair (as Joseph Jerez)
Sue Jean Kim ... Suriya
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Storyline

Forty-six year old Reverend Ernst Toller is the pastor at the historic First Reformed Church in upstate New York. It is seen as the "tourist" church or the "souvenir shop" (its historical significance partly it being a stop on the underground railroad before the slaves crossed into Canada) by Abundant Life, which owns the church and which operates a modern self-named five thousand seat church overseen by Reverend Joel Jeffers. First Reformed is celebrating its two hundred fiftieth anniversary this year, for which a major event is planned, modest in size only at First Reformed itself although the dignitaries like the governor and mayor will be at attendance there, while the event will be simulcast at Abundant Life. Most of the speech-making will be done by local industrialist Ed Balq, a major benefactor of Abundant Life and who is the major donor for the necessary upgrades at First Reformed to be able to hold the event there, and for the event itself, while Toller's participation will ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some disturbing violent images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | UK | Australia

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 May 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

First Reformed See more »

Filming Locations:

New York, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$97,562, 20 May 2018, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$3,448,256, 2 August 2018
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Filmed in Brooklyn and Queens, New York. See more »

Goofs

The books on the Reverend's desk are the wrong way round. See more »

Quotes

Reverend Joel Jeffers: Even a pastor needs a pastor.
See more »

Connections

References Taxi Driver (1976) See more »

Soundtracks

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
Written by Elisha A. Hoffman
Music by Anthony J. Showalter (as Anthony Johnson Showalter)
Performed by Julia Murney
Arrangement by "We Are Dark Angels"
Nicci Kasper - Nics and Dimes ASCAP
Deantonic Parks - Sexy South Music ASCAP
See more »

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User Reviews

 
I don't want God's forgiveness... I want his help!
10 June 2018 | by Kings_RequiemSee all my reviews

'First Reformed' is an extremely challenging film. Maybe the most challenging that I've seen. I expected nothing less from Paul Schrader, though, as he's written and directed a lot of challenging stuff over the years. It's slow, methodical and exacting. It asks important questions but does not give any easy answers (or answers in general for that matter)...

Ethan Hawke's performance at the epicenter of this film really is a towering achievement. It's the kind of performance that will do down as not only one of the best of the year, but this will be remembered (most likely) as his career best. Ernst Toller is a man struggling internally with immense pain and turmoil. The loss of his only child has caused his marriage to fall apart so he has since turned to the Lord for whatever form of relief he can find. Nothing will ever take away that pain, but he's at least been able to somewhat cope with it over the years...though he has never really found true peace or happiness and has since turned to the bottle (like most men seem to) for solace. He writes in a journal every day as a form of self prayer or maybe just a way to put his ruinous thoughts down on paper instead of keeping them bottled up where they could potentially do more harm. A meeting with a local man one day where a multitude of different end-of-the-world topics are discussed ends up leading the Reverend down a rabbit-hole of immense consequences. All of which cause Toller to question his commitment to God and the Church. He's the pastor of a small local church that are all but extinct now and every city is being overrun with these massive churches. Faith has become a spectacle run by mostly phonies who only care about the bottom-line instead of the people and the close-knit community - another thing that frustrates him. Ethan Hawke is able to quietly walk this emotional tightrope the entire film and never allows him to fall into any histrionics. Amanda Seyfried takes on the important role of Mary (one of only 2 main female roles) and she delivers her best performance as well. Mary becomes a integral part of the Reverend's life as they're able to help each other through these difficult times...although it can be kinda hard to see what ways she really helps him. Cedric "The Entertainer" Kyles also shows up along the way as the pastor of the big conglomerate church who, despite good intentions, is probably doing more harm than good.

I feel like it really demands to be seen whether you're a person of faith or not. This is definitely not your typical Christian film and that's probably gonna upset a lot of people, but this one (and Schrader) have more lofty ideas and weighty themes on their mind. This is a very dense screenplay which leads to a heavy film that expects a lot from the audience. Paul Schrader isn't letting anyone off the hook easily here...he's being patient and letting the film open up at its own pace. This is also the kind of film that doesn't divulge all of its secrets in one sitting...it expects you to come back to it and soak it all in over multiple viewings - which with a film of this ilk you should probably do anyway.

Paul Schrader and company have created something wholly unique and special with 'First Reformed' and I think it's definitely something to be valued. So if you're in the mood for something a little different and don't mind your movies making you think, then please give it a chance!


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