✰✰✰✰½ (out of five)
Synopsis: The pastor of a small church in upstate New York spirals out of control after a soul-shaking encounter with an unstable environmental activist and his pregnant wife.
Review: Here is a shocker: the writer of "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver" has come up with a cerebral, visceral look at the human condition and psyche. That man, Paul Schrader, also helms the director's chair of a brilliant look at faith, mortality and devotion. Its a slow burn, but certainly pays off spectacularly, thanks to Schrader's great script. Also tremendous to watch is Ethan Hawke in the lead. Given his youthful start in hollywood, he seems to channel his naivety and vulnerability into a role requiring age, wisdom and experience. Part of it is against type, but Hawke seems so natural in the role. Brooding and bold, "First Reformed" is blessed with all elements married in harmony.