First Reformed ★★★★½

“Will God forgive us? Will God forgive us for what we’re doing to his creation?” Asked by Ethan Hawke’s Reverend Ernst Toller throughout the film, this line plays as the impending question of “First Reformed,” while still barely scratching the surface to the big ideas that director Paul Schrader has on his mind. Plagued with physical ailments and familial tragedy, the film centers on Reverend Toller, the pastor and in-house operator of the historic First Reformed Church. After his consolation of a local churchgoer turns disastrously wrong, Toller turns inwards and is forced to face the rapidly changing world around him. As such, “First Reformed” aims to make sharp and poignant critiques on the corporatization of megachurches, big business corruption, and the dangers of inevitable climate change – all carried by Ethan Hawke, who explores these very real anxieties with a powerfully quiet, career-redefining performance. While true that the film is firing on all cylinders, it never feels overstuffed; remaining pensive, anxious, and more than anything, haunting. As equally a product of its time as it is a product about and for its time, “First Reformed” is undeniably one of the greatest and most thoughtful installments to contemporary art cinema, and very well may be Schrader’s masterpiece. — Tyler Casalini