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491. First Reformed; movie review

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Title : 491. First Reformed; movie review
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Cert 15
113 mins
BBFC advice: Contains strong gory images

Seldom is Ethan Hawke seen in a mainstream movie but his is always a name which pricks my attention.
Hawke takes interesting roles and then appears to commit every fibre of his body to them, creating characters who may not be appealing but are certainly believable.
Director Paul Schrader's work doesn't have the same consistency - his search for the offbeat has resulted in the sacrifice of consistency.
However, First Reformed - a movie which stimulates thought on several levels - proves Hawke and Schrader can be a potent combination.
Hawke plays a vicar who becomes destabilised by an 'end-of-world' environmentalist (Philip Ettinger) in one-to-one sessions which have been requested by his worried pregnant wife (Amanda Seyfried).
The vicar is already bedevilled by alcohol-associated health problems and the stress of preparing his church for its 250th anniversary.
The latter has been overtaken by the great and 'good' of the local society, including the head of a huge company with a dubious ecological record.
Anyway, the sessions are intense and prompt the vicar to question whether we are flying in the face of God by tampering with the environment.
Inevitably, this puts him on a collision course with the church's benefactors.
Interestingly, he is being paid by a corporate church which runs a huge and highly successful enterprise near to his own, more traditional building whose congregations have dwindled down to a handful of worshippers.
As the film progresses, the more addled the priest becomes by his health, the mixed messages around him and his unhealthy fondness for the pregnant parishoner.
Meanwhile, he is having to fight off the advances of a needy colleague (Victoria Hill).
It bubbles along nicely towards its conclusion when it unexpectedly goes all Schrader.
Indeed, the director shows just how easily a riveting movie can lose its way, leaving the audience scratching its head.
Unless someone can explain the finale to me?
Nevertheless, it is worth watching.

Reasons to watch: An interesting combo of religion and modern-day pressures
Reasons to avoid: Baffling finale

Laughs: None
Jumps: None
Vomit: Yes
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 8/10

Director quote - Paul Schrader: "This notion that the poor are poor because they deserved to be and the rich are rich because they’re better. That happens to be the ruling logic of American at this time. That is not Christian logic and it’s certainly not what Jesus taught. But it is a logic of our overlords."

The big question - How much relevance does the church have nowadays?

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