Tag: Ethan Hawke

Image courtesy of A24.

** ½ (out of 4)

Paul Schrader has had his fair share of ups and downs in his decades-long career as a director-screenwriter. At their best, his works demonstrate a masterful use of technique, and they effectively capture the alienation and pent-up resentment that can drive individuals towards extremism. (Think Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, which Schrader wrote.) At their worst, however, Schrader’s films are too didactic for comfort, undermining themselves with their stubborn insistence on reiterating the same basic messages over and over. (For two characteristic examples of this, see Blue Collar and Affliction, both of which Schrader directed and wrote.)

In some ways, First Reformed constitutes a synthesis of Schrader’s best and worst traits, combining his focus on individual alienation, his stylistic prowess, and his monotonous didacticism to make a work that’s interesting but ultimately flawed.

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*** ½ (out of 4)

On the surface, Aisling Walsh’s Maudie would appear to be the umpteenth biopic about a person – in this case, the beloved Canadian folk painter Maud Lewis (Sally Hawkins) – who overcomes adversity. And unlike in movies like The Theory of Everything, there’s more than one obstacle standing in the protagonist’s way. First, Maud suffers from a crippling form of arthritis that makes every walk to the local grocery store a drawn-out ordeal. Second, like most women who came of age before the advent of second-wave feminism, she’s held back by her gender, as evidenced by the condescending treatment she receives from both her older brother (Zachary Bennett) and the employer who eventually becomes her lifelong husband (Ethan Hawke). And finally, Maud in general proves to be shy and lonely, the kind of person who talks in bursts of half-formed phrases and who always finds herself lingering at the back of her local nightclub.

With all these barriers looming over Maud’s life, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re in for two hours of I’m-a-human-being-too melodrama. Thankfully, however, Walsh wisely chooses not to devote much energy to the stereotypically inspirational aspects of Maud’s life.

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals