Warning: There are SPOILERS ahead for the ending to First Reformed. So, if you’ve not seen Paul Schrader’s intense and thought-provoking drama then please don’t read on.
“First Reformed’s” conclusion is utterly beguiling.
Having watched Ethan Hawke’s Father Toller reach the point where is he ready to blow up a church full of Evangelists, shady politicians and employees of a power station that is destroying the planet, all in support of his newly found environmentalist beliefs, the film feels like it is on the verge of reaching an explosive crescendo.
However, when Toller sees the recently widowed Mary (Amanda Seyfried) enter the church, even though he had warned her not to come, he decides to try an improvised back-up plan. This involves wrapping himself in barbed wire and drinking some bleach.
When a concerned Mary walks in to see why the now tardy Toller hasn’t started the anniversary mass that everyone has gathered for, and sees Toller in such a dire state, the duo share a passionate kiss instead, before the film then cuts to black.
I recently had the chance to speak to Cedric The Entertainer, who takes the credit of Cedric Kyles for the film, and he opened up to me about his thoughts on “First Reformed’s” ending.
“It is one of these things where you are not sure what is going to happen. He had a couple of different ways that he wanted to end the movie. I didn’t see it until one of the screenings, I was just glad he didn’t blow the whole place up. That was my main thing.”
“The way he was shooting it at the time, I was like, ‘He is going to have to complete this task. He has decided that this is the only way to end the story.’ And that was the way that Paul kind of set all of us up. Even when we were shooting, we all believed that Ethan’s character was going to go through with it.”
“But it ended up being a very strong moment to see the character go through all of these things and then the way that the movie ends.”
Cedric even seemed to suggest that writer and director Paul Schrader had originally wanted to end the film in an explosive fashion, which led the comedian to speculate over the fate of his character Pastor Jeffers, who was inside the church.
“You felt like Paul needed to end the whole thing. He would always allude to the fact that this guy was truly committed to this thing and had to finish it. He’d ask, ‘He has to go through with this, doesn’t he?’ I’d be like, ‘I don’t know. Does he? I don’t think so’.”
“I was like, ‘I just know he is going to go into this church and blow the whole thing up. And that’s going to be an awesome scene. Hopefully I will get out’.”
“I never shot a scene where I got out. But in my mind I would have got out. I’d have grabbed all of the people. Jumping through the stained glass window.”
During our discussion, Cedric also opened up about his original reaction to reading the “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull” writer’s screenplay for “First Reformed.”
“When I read the script I was shocked and taken aback where the religious tale went. It goes down a really dark rabbit hole. It is the kind of thing that draws you.”
“I just kept asking, ‘What is going on!? What is happening!’ And then, ‘Woah! Really?’ That’s exactly how it read. Paul being an amazing writer and director managed to catch it all in this unique way”
Cedric admitted that he had some concerns because of his background. “Coming from a religious background, growing up in church. You’re a little concerned about some of the things that are being said.”
“I was like, ‘Are you kind of saying that preachers aren’t capable of the job?’ He was like, ‘That’s the question. I went to a theology school and I went to a seminary. But at the same time I wanted to drink and see girls. That conflict is how I ended up getting to this idea.’ I thought that was really real. It was a human thing.”
For Cedric, “First Reformed” also sparks a much needed debate on just how honest and authentic people are, not just in religion but in everyday life.
“We have come to a place in society where being politically correct is the norm. People have a dissenting opinion about anything. And Religion is one of those places where people are playing a role. And you kind of sense that they are playing roles.”
“Therefore there is no real movement or growth. The growth of the mega Church and the evangelist is definitely one of those kind of places. I was thinking about that Pastor in Houston, Joel Osteen, who didn’t want people to stay in his church.”
“That’s when you see the other side of the human being, and you are like, ‘What is that about?’ Films like this opens up conversation. A movie where a pastor is so empathetic to people’s needs, like he actually feels like he has to take a drastic act to save the world, it is going to lead to a great conversation.”