First Reformed ★★★★½

“How often we ask for genuine experience when all we really want is emotion.”

No matter how inclined a viewer is to peel away the layers (with environmentalism, and Christianity’s blind eye thereto, being the most superficial and transparent), one cannot deny the fundamental nature of Paul Schrader’s First Reformed as an introspective narrative about introspective narrative.  And in this respect, I don’t think I’ve witnessed a filmmaker struggling so broadly and so deeply with his own contradictions - with his own hope and despair - in quite a while.  Nor have I struggled so much with a film in quite a while - not because I’m a human who needs to believe in a god, but because I’m a human who needs to believe in humanity.

Ignore the filmspotters’ burdensome comparisons to Bresson and Bergman.  This Ozu-like re-riff on Schrader’s own Taxi Driver/Travis Bickle is best considered, I believe, as a product of its time - a very personal contrast to the very political post mortems of so many of Schrader’s contemporaries (see, e.g., The Post).

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