First Reformed

2017 | Drama | In English | 113 minutes


Reverend Ernst Toller agonizes over his failure to invigorate the rural First Reformed Church. He seeks solace in alcohol, reading Roman Catholic essays, and keeping a detailed journal of his thoughts. Mary Mensana comes to him for counseling. She is pregnant and her husband, Michael, insists  she have an abortion. He doesn’t want to raise a child in what he considers an uninhabitable polluted world. Shockingly, Mary learns that Michael is preparing to wear a suicide vest. Rather than go to the police, Toller convinces Mary that it’s best if he talks to Michael. They arrange a meeting in the local park. When Toller arrives, he finds Michael dead of a self-inflicted wound. Typical of Michael, he  requested in his will that his ashes be scattered in the local toxic-waste dump. Toller is spiraling downward as he now puts on the suicide vest. Mary intervenes. But it’s uncertain if Toller will ever succeed in serving his parishioners. In a reversal, it might have to be Mary who helps Reverend Toller survive.


Ethan Hawke (Pastor Ernst Toller) / Amanda Seyfried (Mary Mensana) / Philip Ettinger (Michael Mensana)

Why Stream This Film?

Director Paul Schrader was raised in the Christian Reformed Church, a strict Calvinist denomination. However he became smitten with the forbidden pleasures of the first films he saw. He stated: “I sensed a bridge between the spirituality I was raised with and the profane cinema I loved. And it was a bridge of style not content.” If you choose to see FIRST REFORMED, you will be seeing a film by a brilliant director/writer and an actor at their very best.

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus) 93% 93%
  • Metacritic Score 85% 85%
  • Academy Awards: Nominated: Best Screenplay (Paul Schrader)
  • Independent Spirit Awards- Nominated: Best Film; Best Male Lead (Ethan Hawke); Best Director (Paul  Schrader); Best Original Screenplay (Paul Schrader)
  • Gotham Awards: Best Actor (Ethan Hawke; Best Screenplay (Paul Schrader)
  • National Board of Review: Included in Top 10 Films of the Year; Best Original Screenplay (Paul Schrader)
  • American Film Institute: Included in Top 10 Films of the Year

Now streaming on:

FIRST REFORMED works through its influences to achieve an uncanny directness. It is the portrait of a soul in torment, all the more powerful for being so rigorously conceived and meticulously executed. The film is an assertion of order in the face of chaos, an effort effort to organize something that is by its very nature an unholy mess: one person’s life.
A.O. Scott

The New York Times

Ethan Hawke brilliantly plays an alcoholic Protestant minister undergoing a profound spiritual and psychological crisis. It’s a stunning, enrapturing film, a crowning work by one of the American cinema’s most essential artists. The solid anchor is provided by Hawke’s performance as Toller. A fine actor from the beginning, Hawke has been growing exponentially in recent years, and this is his most expertly crafted performance yet.
Godfrey Cheshire

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