First Reform is full of tension, it constantly builds with very few releases. The movie follows Father Toller, Ethan Hawke, as his small historic church plans for its 250th anniversary. He is also working as a counselor to two of his flock, Mary and Michael, portrayed by Amanda Seyfried and Philip Ettinger. Cedric the Entertainer is the head of a larger church looking after First Reform, while Michael Gaston plays Balq, the evil business man.
You learn Toller is an alcoholic with a terminal disease early in the movie. He struggles throughout the movie with his faith and corporate involvement with the church. Michael is revealed to be a radical environmentalist. Toller's conversation with Michael kicks off his struggle through the movie. How can men of the cloth accept corporate influence and do nothing to protect God's gift to man, the Earth.
Tension is built around Toller's decent into alcoholism, radicalism, and how to make the most of his short time left. The pacing and tension weren't for me. It is a good character study and asks some big questions we could all face today. I felt that the movie relied on a few too many tropes and became predictable at times when I wish it weren't. This isn't a happy movie and is going to make you think about it later. I see why the movie is controversial, but I am not sure that makes it stand out.