First Reformed

First Reformed ★★★★

I've always been an admirer of Paul Schrader's writing but his directorial efforts normally leave me a little cold. Of late, he's been churning out sub-standard material and you'd have to go back to 1997's Affliction to mention a directorial outing that really struck me. First Reformed, however, sees Schrader return to powerfully potent form. It's up there with the very best of his work behind the camera. That said, it has strong resemblances to his most well known and lauded writing work of 1976's Taxi Driver. Ethan Hawke's tormented priest echoes the self-reflection of Travis Bickle and his voiceover diary entries throw up the same complexities in deciphering one's place in the world while dealing with a tormented past and keeping a grip on an escalating despair. There were so many shots within the film that reminded me of Scorsese's earlier masterwork and Hawke delivers a riveting central performance that anchors the whole affair. A deep and profound film that deserves to put Schrader firmly back on the map.

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