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First Reformed


Stars: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric Antonio Kyles (Cedric the Entertainer), Victoria Hill

Director: Paul Schrader

Tormented priests have never been a force at the box-office, but there can be few bleaker portraits of one such man than in Schrader's revamp of Ingmar Bergman's classic Winter Light.

The guilt that haunts Father Toller (Hawke) stems from his encouraging his only son to fight in Iraq. The boy was killed, and Toller's wife has left him. 'Desolation came upon me,' groans Hawke and he's not kidding.

Now, the 250th anniversary of his church, the First Reformed of the (terrible) title, is coming up, and Toller's immediate superior (Kyles) is worried. 'To you,' he complains, 'every hour is the darkest hour'.

Schrader's film, which deviates dramatically from the original in its final third, has none of the grip of Bergman's film, with Hawke unable to get much of this man's inner turmoil across to us, as Toller agonises towards self-destruction. The actor has given some solid performances of late, but this is a step too far for him.

David Quinlan

USA 2017. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by Company 3.
113 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 01 Nov 2018

DVD review