By Adam Ray Palmer
Earlier this week I caught Paul Schrader’s latest flick called First Reformed at the Venice Film Festival.
Schrader’s, the writer behind Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, First Reformed stars Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried and Michael Gaston.
First Reformed follows an ex-military chaplain (Hawke) who is wrecked by grief over the death of his son. Amanda Seyfried plays Mary, a member of his church, whose husband, a radical environmentalist, commits suicide, setting the plot in motion.
Like other Schrader works, this movie is very dialogue heavy. Paul draws from his Taxi Driver days here as the two films are very similar in style. Sadly, where Taxi Driver benefits with a script that zings and action to follow suit, First Reformed lacks the punch and the zing.
Many critics here have found something to connect to in this film, I just can’t grasp it. It’s tedious, slow and the protagonists make it a chore to witness. I’m usually a fan of Ethan Hawke but his Reverend Toller is so difficult to build a rapport with. It takes until the final 10 minutes to peak any interest in this film for me, and that’s only because there’s a bizarre and explicit barbed wire sequence.
In addition, for a movie to be about two characters with severe troubles who look to each other for comfort; Amanda Seyfried couldn’t be more of a backseat passenger. She’s always been solid in her roles but here she’s lacklustre and given very little to get her teeth into.
First Reformed has core themes of religion, spirituality and transcendence which are all significant and stimulating; but Paul just doesn’t find a way to keep the intrigue alive. Paul Schrader will always be a legend in film, but for me this just misses the boat (excuse the Venetian pun). Some will love this over-the-top spiritual flick, but I’m not convinced.
Cineroom’s Rating: 2 Stars
First reformed is released later this year.