Family movie night? There's an app for that
Download our new mobile app on iOS and Android.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
To describe the film's apparent message in detail would be a spoiler; suffice it to say that after a descent into darkness, there's a real plea for human connection.
Positive Role Models
Several members of the clergy, including the main character, are portrayed as caring and serious about their work. The main character, as troubled as he is, definitely tries to do the right thing as he sees it.
Violence & Scariness
Gory aftermath of a suicide is shown. Suicide is a theme. YouTube footage of suicide bomber is viewed, albeit in poor resolution. A character performs a disturbing act of penance. A character's growing illness is represented in painful, discolored (probably bloody) urination.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
No nudity. But there's an undercurrent of roiling sexuality that almost spills over in one (non-nude) intimate scene. The approach to sexuality is adult.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main character is a spiraling alcoholic. His drinking definitely isn't glamorized, but it's increasingly present as the film goes on.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although First Reformed doesn't have any nudity, excessive violence, or strong language, its themes and approach are definitely mature. It deals with suicide, depression, likely PTSD, repressed sexuality, and radicalization. And its measured pace is likely too slow for younger viewers. Ethan Hawke stars as a troubled priest who's involved in the lives of a young couple (Amanda Seyfried, Philip Ettinger); the film follows his rapid decline. The film presents interesting theological arguments involving day-to-day issues in a serious, adult way. Although it may not appeal to teens, it should be OK for older teens, depending on their sensitivity to some of the subjects listed here. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This might sound convenient because writer-director Paul Schrader also wrote Taxi Driver, but this drama could be viewed as a companion piece to that classic. Set in the priesthood, First Reformed follows a PTSD sufferer down a dark road searching for a guiding light. Hawke's placid surface and intellectual rigor as Father Toller belie the roiling beneath. He hasn't overcome his past guilt, and when the opportunity to participate fully in something larger than himself presents itself, you have to imagine that the urge isn't dissimilar to what led him to the clergy in the first place. Schrader takes a slow, calm, direct, almost Kubrickian path here: long, static takes; minimal score; few moments of over-the-top emotion. What emerges is a portrait -- almost a still-life -- of radicalization.
The acting is solid all around. Ettinger shines as a passionate young husband. Hill is sympathetic as the choir director who loves Father Toller. As the leader of the church/corporation that employs Toller, Cedric the Entertainer balances priorities of compassion and the bottom line. Schrader allows only one clear villain (a heartless CEO), and his dramatic purpose is clear: to muddy the waters for viewers' rooting interests. First Reformed is carefully considered and cleanly executed. Its final scene makes an interesting argument for what might cure the sickness that seems to infect so many with violent thoughts.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.