Countdown to 5K! – #17 – First Reformed (2017)

This is my 4942nd Review

Original Rating prediction – 9/10


“Courage is the solution to despair, reason provides no answers. I can’t know what the future will bring; we have to choose despite uncertainty. Wisdom is holding two contradictory truths in our mind, simultaneously, Hope and despair. A life without despair is a life without hope. Holding these two ideas in our head is life itself.” – Reverend Ernst Toller

Number of Times Seen – 1 (4 Feb 2019)

Brief Synopsis – The minister of a church in New York that is also a historical site must deal with the changing nature of external faith as he also is gripped with his own emotional baggage that stems from personal and health issues.

My Take on it – This is a film that I have heard so many conflicting things about over the past few months and was quite interested in seeing why there are so many diverse opinions on this film.

I now understand…

This is a film that has a great beginning and middle, but the final third of the film derails anything an everything that made things interesting beforehand.

Ethan Hawke has been lauded for his performance here and he does a wonderful job with this character and I can understand how he could get multiple award nominations for this role.

We are able to feel the pain of his character on the emotional, spiritual and even physical levels and at the same time, we see that he still does his best to deal with his own questions of faith along the way while still trying to stay true to his vocation of being a man of faith.

This film also does a nice job of adding in the ideas of how religious institutes of today must deal with trying to embrace the changes that technology and the modern world have imposed while also finding a way to continue to cling to the ways of religion in the past.

Unfortunately, since the final third of this film takes things in a poor direction, it ruins everything that the film was able to establish so well beforehand.

This actually hurts the way that one can reflect on what transpires in this film which is so unfortunate since they have some great issues that they bring up yet don’t manage to supply sufficiently acceptable answers to the ways to resolve these issues which is quite disappointing because this film has so much more potential.

Bottom Line – Interesting idea that loses much of its credit during the final third of the film which doesn’t work as well as the beginning.  Hawke does a wonderful job with the pain of this character on the emotional, spiritual and physical levels and we see how he does his best to reconcile his own questions about faith while trying to continue being a man of faith.  They do a nice job adding in issues of how religion deals with trying to embrace the changes of the modern times while still trying to cling to the past. The fact that the final third of this film derails everything that was established previously really hurts how one can reflect on this film because it brings up some great ideas yet doesn’t find sufficiently acceptable answers to the way to resolve them which is quite disappointing.

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – The film’s name was inspired by the director’s own religious background in what is known as Calvinism, the second expression of Protestant Christianity to spring out of the Protestant Reformation. The first being Lutheranism. John Calvin and his followers believed that Martin Luther had not taken his reformation far enough and sought to install doctrines that further distances themselves from Roman Catholicism. (From IMDB)

Rating – BAFTA Worthy (6/10)


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4 thoughts on “Countdown to 5K! – #17 – First Reformed (2017)

  1. NOT a fan of this. Slow and weird at the start – and a lousy non-ending. Too much of Hawke sitting and writing in his journal with voiceovers. Some crazy “dream” sequences. And the “ending” – which really isn’t one – leaving the audience hanging (and me – pissed off) IS AWFUL. I was actually shocked that the Writer’s Branch of the Academy gave Schrader an Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay. This film actually made me personal Worst 10 list.


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