First Reformed – Released May 18, 2018 (A24)

Written and directed by Paul Schrader “First Reformed” tells the story of Reverend Ernst Toller, a pastor at an old church that has been mostly forgotten. Its contributions to the community are largely ceremonial, with more visitors interested in taking a tour or browsing their gift shop rather than any real spiritual journey. Toller finds himself tasked with counseling a young couple as he struggles to make sense of his faith, the world and his place in both. I found myself struggling with the plot through much of the film. The pace is slow and plodding, and the use of environmental issues feels a bit heavy-handed on the surface. Toller’s heal turn also feel extremely abrupt and jarring. His interactions with Michael and Mary are brief and do not really justify Toller’s sudden shift ...

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