Ethan Hawke: "First Reformed" gives a voice to society's anxiety

In Paul Schrader's latest film, "First Reformed," Ethan Hawke portrays an alcoholic priest experiencing a "crisis of faith" following the death of his son and an encounter with an unstable environmental activist.

"He's in a dark place when we find him," Hawke told "CBS This Morning" on Thursday. "He was a military chaplain so he talked his son into joining the war and when his son dies, his wife leaves him."

Hawke, who's known for his roles in iconic films like "Dead Poet's Society, "Boyhood," and "Training Day," was drawn to the character because of how rare it is to see a "serious portrait" of a religious person in film.

"In movies they'll often have them be a diabolical bad guy or a comic joke but they're not fully explored people and it's a big part of our lives, part of the community. And part of the reason is I think it requires a great writer to attack the bigger themes of life and Paul Schrader, ever since 'Taxi Driver,' has been writing at an extremely high level," he said.

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Ethan Hawke in "First Reformed"

A24

One of those big themes includes the questions of how faith and ecology intersect – questions Hawke feels are on many people's minds.

"Are we being good stewards? Are we being good leaders to our young people? Where is ethics today? And it's something we're all kind of choking on as we feel it undermined. We look to the religious community, we look all around us for voice and I think Paul Schrader has given that anxiety voice in this movie," he said.

Without spoiling, "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King asked Hawke about the film's ambiguous, disturbing ending and what to make of it. To explain, Hawke invoked the film's creator.

"He (Schrader) said something I loved when I asked him about the ending of the movie. He says, a good movie starts when you walk out of theater. It's like you ring the bell. And this movie is trying to ring the bell and the bell vibrates inside you."