"Dynamic and strikingly sincere": The best films this summer

Forty-two years after "Taxi Driver," Paul Schrader directs his own script about another loner wrestling with evil
June 17, 2018

First Reformed

Released on 13th July

Forty-two years after his first original screenplay (Taxi Driver for Martin Scorsese), Paul Schrader directs his own script about another loner wrestling with evil. This time, though, it’s a priest (lean and thoughtful Ethan Hawke) who must confront the crisis of a young environmentalist as well his own failing faith. Money, terrorism and eco-armageddon are debated in this unashamedly wordy drama, which still remains dynamic and strikingly sincere. It might be a tribute to Robert Bresson’s classic Diary of a Country Priest but its aim at contemporary targets is true.

Generation Wealth

Released on 20th July

Lauren Greenfield began to photograph the affluent youth of Los Angeles a quarter of a century ago. Over the years, she’s chronicled our growing obsession with status. Her previous documentary—The Queen of Versailles—was about a family building the biggest private home in the US. Now she’s bringing the project to an end with a film about addiction to achievement. This could have been a smug poke at excess but Greenfield doesn’t exclude from criticism her own obsessive way of working and the effect it’s had on her family.

Leave No Trace

Released on 29th June

Marginalised people have long been the concern of writer/director Debra Granik. The subjects here are a traumatised military veteran (Ben Foster, above) and his adolescent daughter living wild and unnoticed in a park near Portland, Oregon. When they’re finally detected, what’s to be done if they don’t want to integrate? Granik has found a great young actor in New Zealander Thomasin McKenzie. With a mix of professional and “natural” performers—and a profusion of nature—the film charts boundaries between independence and isolation. Quietly impressive.