The Faltering Faith of First Reformed

Josh Larsen

First Reformed, the new Paul Schrader movie starring Ethan Hawke as a spiritually adrift pastor, hits something of a sweet spot for us here at Think Christian.

Schrader comes from the Reformed tradition to which we belong; he even attended Calvin College, the educational institution of our parent denomination. News that the screenwriter of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Last Temptation of Christ had returned to his roots inevitably piqued our interest. The fact that the movie, which Schrader wrote and directed, has so far received rave reviews makes it even more compelling.

In the next week or so, we’ll be posting an audio interview with Schrader courtesy of my side gig, Filmspotting. Once the movie hits wider release, we’ll also offer an in-depth reflection on the film. For now, here’s an excerpt of the spoiler-free review I wrote for my personal site. Hopefully it whets your appetite for the fruitful First Reformed conversations to come.

First Reformed manages to be ascetic, poetic, and prophetic. It’s at once centering, thrilling, and disturbing. Schrader is no preacher, so no one should come to First Reformed expecting orthodoxy. Indeed, there are moments when the movie seems to deliberately tweak doctrine. Yet perhaps First Reformed offers something as valuable as a theologically sound sermon. This is a confession of faith not as faith is often demanded, but as it’s experienced—especially in those nights when the living water gets stiff competition from Scotch and a shot of Pepto-Bismol.”

Topics: Movies