The power of restrained filmmaking is in full force in writer/director Paul Schrader’s quietly compelling story of the minister at a small Upstate New York church (Ethan Hawke) facing a Job-like series of crises involving his faith, his health, and his relationships.
Following yet another sparsely attended service, he’s approached by a sad-eyed, pregnant parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) whose husband Michael (Philip Ettenger) wants her to have an abortion rather than raise their child in an ecologically doomed world. She wants the pastor to counsel her troubled spouse, so he makes a house call — and for a full 10 minutes the two men engage in a discussion that brilliantly links the ethereal with the earthly, the divine with the decrepit. It’s just one wondrous scene in a film that offers thoughtful surprises — some shocking, others sublime — from the first frame to the last.
Of course, the troubled pastor has more than his flock’s trials on his mind. His body seems to be breaking down from inside out; he has been driven to drink by the death of a son in Afghanistan and the resulting breakup of his marriage. He’s troubled by the attention lavished on him by an admiring church music director (heartbreaking Victoria Hill). And he’s finding himself distressingly affected by Michael’s apocalyptic vision of a world ravaged by climate change.
The superb supporting cast includes Cedric Kyles (better known as Cedric the Entertainer) as a megachurch pastor trying to figure the angles between serving God and mammon. Michael Gaston plays an energy company CEO with no such inner conflict — he’s happy despoiling the Earth and he salves his barely felt guilt by lavishing financial support on Hawke’s money-losing church.
As in Schrader’s classic script forTaxi Driver, the conflicts (FULL REVIEW)
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