A. S. Hamrah at n+1:
To that end, First Reformed is daring and unrelenting—it searches for and pinpoints real harm. Ten people walked out of the theater where I saw it, most of them Schrader’s age. I think they left because the film’s intensity was too much in a world where they had the option of seeing Book Club at a theater down the street.
Most people at the screening were younger, and they stayed put for an ending that includes a glass of Drano and a barbed wire vest. As I’ve tried to convey, the film is bleak. But contrary to what we’re told, I don’t think audiences want upbeat films in bad times. Hollywood takes advantage of bad times by telling people that’s what they want, because that’s what they were going to make anyway.