In the UK, I had to fight to get hold of a copy of First Reformed it really doesn’t seem to have had a proper DVD/Blu-Ray release here. The copy I managed to get hold of came from Italy – that may change, as this is a major film by one of the best filmmakers still working today.
I’ve already banged on endlessly about Paul Schrader, in particular his film Affliction from 1997. Which I think is a masterpiece and the best film that most people haven’t seen.
Affliction’s reputation is growing and it’s fitting that around 20 years later Schrader makes First Reformed which is a film with similar intensity to Affliction and will also grow, the way Affliction has.
This is a tough watch, a religious piece with no easy answers, and essentially it’s really just a three or four hander. The majority of the film focussing on Ethan Hawke’s priest Toller, who is struggling with his faith and his place in the world, as others around him do the same (with some tragic consequences).
Not much happens, but what does happen is observed with a keen eye, and a lot of it is painful, spiritually and physically.
Of course, Schrader is celebrated for writing Taxi Driver back in the day, and many of the same themes are in this film (as they are in Affliction and Light Sleeper another favourite of mine). Schrader the writer once described his screenwriting style as ‘picking at his own scabs’ – this film fits neatly into the category of ‘picking scabs’ – even after all these years Schrader can make them bleed one more time…
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on email@example.com or hire him on Peopleperhour