First Reformed

In Paul Schrader’s spiritual drama, the middle-aged pastor of a historic Reformed Protestant church in upstate New York is called upon by a young parishioner to counsel her husband, a radical environmentalist so distraught over the planet’s future that he wants to kill himself. Conferring in the husband’s study, which is wallpapered with dire scientific charts, Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke) urges the troubled Michael (Philip Ettinger) not to surrender to despair. As the minister records the encounter in his journal that evening, he lights on a quote from the Catholic monk and writer Thomas Merton: “Despair is a development of pride so great that it chooses someone’s certitude rather than admit that God is more creative than we are.” Toller is glad he didn’t say this to Michael, but the words might have fallen on deaf ears anyway; the next day, Toller receives a text from the young man summoning him to a nearby forest preserve and arrives to discover that Michael has blown his brains out with a rifle. Continue reading>>