FIRST REFORMED
2018, A24, 108 min, USA, Dir: Paul Schrader

Writer-director Paul Schrader’s gripping thriller tackles a crisis of faith that is at once personal, political and planetary. Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is a solitary, middle-aged parish pastor at a small Dutch Reform church in upstate New York on the cusp of celebrating its 250th anniversary. Once a stop on the Underground Railroad, the church is now a tourist attraction catering to a dwindling congregation, eclipsed by its nearby parent church, Abundant Life, with its state-of-the-art facilities and 5,000-strong flock. When a pregnant parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) asks Reverend Toller to counsel her husband, a radical environmentalist, the clergyman finds himself plunged into his own tormented past and equally despairing future, until he finds redemption in an act of grandiose violence.


LIGHT SLEEPER
1992, Lionsgate, 103 min, USA, Dir: Paul Schrader

Willem Dafoe is an alienated drug courier in night-time Manhattan, faced with intimations of his own mortality in this underrated, neo-Bressonian crime film from the author of TAXI DRIVER. Dana Delaney gives a powerful, understated performance as Dafoe's ex-girlfriend fated for a tragic end, while Susan Sarandon shines as his drug-dealer boss experiencing her own painful spiritual growth.


AFFLICTION
1997, Lionsgate, 114 min, USA/Canada, Dir: Paul Schrader

Writer-director Paul Schrader’s adaptation of the Russell Banks novel focuses on New Hampshire policeman Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte, in one of his best performances), forced to confront personal demons as he investigates a suspicious hunting accident. The top-notch cast includes Sissy Spacek, Willem Dafoe, Mary Beth Hurt and James Coburn, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar as Whitehouse’s abusive father.


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