Ethan Hawke is a clergyman whose job is to service his community by communicating Gods words to people and people’s words to God. In the end he finds that none of these matter but what wins is just plain old love, principally – love between a man and a women.
The story begins with him counselling a disturbed husband who wants to abort his child because of – “Climate Change.” The clergyman has lots of wise words for the messed up husband. Nothing works. Thankfully, the husband shoots himself. This, at least, spares the wife much of a bother. Also Ethan now has a love interest which in the end redeems him.
Ethan Hawke successfully plays a character who is an introvert, reticent and withdrawn. He pours his troubles onto his diary. His dialogues with people trails off into monologues, as the character disconnects with whosoever he is conversing to writing the diary with all that’s left unsaid.
It’s an intuitive narrative with lots of thoughts, pauses and self-talk but the flow of the story maintains a tempo which never lags. And contrary to fashion these days of mobile camerawork, the camera here is pretty static in the screenplay. The camera waits “in front of the house”, “one corner of the room” etc., so the viewer also waits, in a way. To experience this change is refreshing.
The movie, First Reformed, is subtle comment on powerlessness of humans against agencies. Those agencies could be big energy companies polluting the earth, or Churches which depend on donations from big businesses or even ones own body or habits. Sermons, counselling, advice etc., are just empty words. They don’t matter.