First Reformed: What Does The Ending Really Mean?

6. The Ending

First Reformed Ethan Hawke Amanda Seyfried

Firstly, let's recap that ending. The movie of course revolves around Reverend Ernst Toller (Hawke), who is suffering through a battery of physical and mental maladies.

Where to begin? His church attendance is dwindling, he's more than likely suffering with stomach cancer, he's haunted by the death of his son in the Iraq War (after encouraging him to enlist), and an environmental activist he's been counselling, Michael (Philip Ettinger), ends up committing suicide.

This cumulatively fractures Toller's mental well-being to the point that he decides to sacrifice his own life to make a statement about the state of the world.

He retrieves a suicide vest he confiscated from Michael's home and plans to blow himself up inside the church, taking a fleet of corrupt politicians and Earth-ravaging industrialists with him.

But once Toller realises that Michael's wife Mary (Amanda Seyfried) is at the church, despite him warning her not to attend, he ditches the vest and switches to plan B.

Toller then wraps himself in barbed wire and pours a glass of drain cleaner, but before he can take a swig, Mary enters the room. At this point, Toller walks towards Mary and the two enter a passionate embrace, enjoying a prolonged kiss before Schrader cuts to black. The end.

And now that we've refreshed how the movie ends, let's dig into the finer details...


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.