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Parents' Guide to

First Reformed

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Disturbing images in intense, mature character study.

Movie R 2018 108 minutes
First Reformed Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 7 parent reviews

age 15+

A build up to get wholloped at the end!

Hawke has come a long way from Dead Poet's Society...people need to be Oh Captain My Captain-ing him! His performance is demure...until it's not. The writing wraps the contentious issues that the film addresses into a building crescendo. Seyfried is mesmerizing and Hawke and her run around trying to swim through pain and sadness. The ending feels inevitable, but when it finally comes it is so simple and powerful and you realize that the first hour and 50 minutes was so that we could all receive the full impact of the last scene. Breathtaking.
age 10+


Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (7 ):
Kids say (5 ):

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.

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