A24 | Release Date: May 18, 2018
7.5
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Generally favorable reviews based on 56 Ratings
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42
Mixed:
7
Negative:
7
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9
ManuelNardinJul 3, 2018
I add this movie to my favorites on boxxy software. FIRST REFORMED- the most beautiful film by Schrader, who often external aesthetics shunned.
1 of 1 users found this helpful10
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9
MarcDoyleMay 20, 2018
Outstanding film - Ethan Hawke at the peak of his powers. And Cedric is really good in this serious role. It's a little out there, but I enjoyed the pacing - the directing is immaculate.
5 of 6 users found this helpful51
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4
tropicAcesJun 9, 2018
I really enjoyed parts of it, and Hawke is subtly great. But the film is so randomly on-the-nose with its call for climate change advocacy (literally stopping the movie twice just to rattle off stats) that it kills momentum. And the endingI really enjoyed parts of it, and Hawke is subtly great. But the film is so randomly on-the-nose with its call for climate change advocacy (literally stopping the movie twice just to rattle off stats) that it kills momentum. And the ending was too abstract for me. Maybe this just wasn’t my kind of film, I don’t know... Expand
3 of 4 users found this helpful31
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10
The3AcademySinsMay 27, 2018
First Reformed is a near perfect offering from cinematic master Paul Schrader, and another notch on the belt for the impressive studio A24. Despair, hope, faith, isolation, and social decay are all explored to their fullest depths in aFirst Reformed is a near perfect offering from cinematic master Paul Schrader, and another notch on the belt for the impressive studio A24. Despair, hope, faith, isolation, and social decay are all explored to their fullest depths in a manner that is perfect for audiences in 2018. This might be Ethan Hawke's best performance as an actor. Amanda Seyfried is also incredible, and Cedric the Entertainer also busts out some fine acting chops. There truly is not a weak link in the cast, even among the minor characters.

The script is a slow-burning engine that drives it's way home. You'll be really emotionally effected by First Reformed. If you are a fan of serious film, this is a must-see. I'll be genuinely surprised if Hawke and Schrader don't get nominations at this year's Academy Awards.
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3 of 4 users found this helpful31
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9
AugustKellerJun 4, 2018
First Reformed is solid gold. The film is striking on a visual level because every shot is rich with balance, depth and artful levels of symmetry; despite the fact that the film is presented in an unusual aspect ratio, it pulls its viewers inFirst Reformed is solid gold. The film is striking on a visual level because every shot is rich with balance, depth and artful levels of symmetry; despite the fact that the film is presented in an unusual aspect ratio, it pulls its viewers in with nonstop beautiful photography. Meanwhile, a thought-provoking story unfolds with some of the best acting we’ve seen from each elite performer. The entire cast (from Hawke to Seyfried to Cedric Kyles) delivers fantastic performances that are essential in bringing the chilling messages of the film home.

The story is expectedly spiritual and surprisingly political. The pace of the film is deliberate and switches seamlessly between snapshots and extended takes. The scoring slowly builds its ominous tone and the effects are tastefully done. Every aspect of First Reformed is built with intention that serves its sobering themes. Ultimately, First Reformed‘s elite qualities combined into an experience that is more than a movie, it is a piece of art. If you like technique, you will love First Reformed.

Writing: 9/10
Direction: 10/10
Cinematography: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Editing: 9/10
Sound: 8/10
Score/Soundtrack: 9/10
Production Design: 8/10
Casting: 10/10
Effects: 8/10

Overall Score: 9.1/10

Original Article: https://thefilmguys.blog/reviews/augusts-reviews/first-reformed-2018/
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2 of 3 users found this helpful21
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2
KirklandiaJun 17, 2018
Unfortunately this movie just got to my area this weekend. This movie could have been and should have been great! The themes both religious, personal, and ecological are intense and relevant. However as much as I appreciate ambiguity theUnfortunately this movie just got to my area this weekend. This movie could have been and should have been great! The themes both religious, personal, and ecological are intense and relevant. However as much as I appreciate ambiguity the ending was uncalled for. Instead of a climax we got a fart. In my opinion machina ex-deus. Expand
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2
ProteusJun 11, 2018
Major Caution!! The movie is filmed in 1:37 aspect ratio. So the film takes up about the middle half of a theater screen. Extremely annoying. There is symmetry in some shots but the visuals are terrible.....a very ugly movie. No score to theMajor Caution!! The movie is filmed in 1:37 aspect ratio. So the film takes up about the middle half of a theater screen. Extremely annoying. There is symmetry in some shots but the visuals are terrible.....a very ugly movie. No score to the movie. Totally character driven movie...so critics who are ALL in the cult of character rate the movie highly.

There is a lot, a LOT, to dislike about this movie...

My pet peeve....movies are a visual art form. Make them attractive to look at. FAIL.
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1 of 2 users found this helpful11
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10
GinaKJun 1, 2018
I have to be careful not to give away the plot of “First Reformed” since the “journey of the soul” of the Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is the plot. That is not to say that you have to be religious to enjoy this film. The characterI have to be careful not to give away the plot of “First Reformed” since the “journey of the soul” of the Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is the plot. That is not to say that you have to be religious to enjoy this film. The character study is engrossing even if you aren’t a religious person at all. To say that Toller is in despair is an understatement and this is made worse by one of his parishioners, an environmentalist, who commits suicide in despair about his ability to help the environment just as Toller seems to feel he is not helping anyone, including himself. The former parishioner also leaves Toller the means to kill himself and make his own statement. Toller makes a tough choice, and I won’t reveal what it is, but I think you will be moved by this powerful film and the deeply felt character brought to life by Ethan Hawke. Expand
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8
moviemitch96Jun 8, 2018
A highly thought-provoking and intellect-stimulating film. Ethan Hawke gives a career-best here as far as I'm concerned and writer/director Paul Schrader is in top form as well. Overall, apart from some questionable moments and an ambiguousA highly thought-provoking and intellect-stimulating film. Ethan Hawke gives a career-best here as far as I'm concerned and writer/director Paul Schrader is in top form as well. Overall, apart from some questionable moments and an ambiguous ending that I'm honestly still thinking about and trying to process, this is a pretty interesting film with lots on its mind and lots of unique and insightful ways of expressing it all. Expand
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9
Brent_MarchantMay 26, 2018
An utterly captivating examination of faith, despair, the search for happiness, and the need to strike a balance between our spiritual and secular lives. While some elements are a little dragged out, much of the film sizzles with anAn utterly captivating examination of faith, despair, the search for happiness, and the need to strike a balance between our spiritual and secular lives. While some elements are a little dragged out, much of the film sizzles with an underlying intensity that you can feel as the story unfolds. With what is undoubtedly Ethan Hawke's best screen performance, a surprisingly strong portrayal by Cedric "the Entertainer" Kyles in a serious role and phenomenal cinematography, writer-director Paul Schrader has put together a film that gives us all much to contemplate, as well as emotional impressions that will stay with us long after we leave the theater. Handily one of the best releases of 2018 thus far. Expand
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9
BeastJ18Jun 11, 2018
When I saw this in Rotterdam, it did not sit with me well for the beginning of the movie. However, as the plot started to build and the impact of the story and film language started to become clear, this film did not disappoint. The beauty inWhen I saw this in Rotterdam, it did not sit with me well for the beginning of the movie. However, as the plot started to build and the impact of the story and film language started to become clear, this film did not disappoint. The beauty in the cinematography and editing really cement this first as an early front-runner for award season. Expand
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8
GrantD243Jun 1, 2018
First Reformed wasn't marketed at all around where I live, and I don't believe I ever even watched a trailer for it, so going into it all I knew about it was that it was an A24 film with Ethan Hawke about a reverend. Naturally, I assumed itFirst Reformed wasn't marketed at all around where I live, and I don't believe I ever even watched a trailer for it, so going into it all I knew about it was that it was an A24 film with Ethan Hawke about a reverend. Naturally, I assumed it was a horror film, or at least something dealing with the supernatural. Boy, I was in for a surprise. First Reformed is a slow burn drama, and a damn good one at that. The story of First Reformed is about Reverend Toller, who oversees First Reformed Church, which is a church that is almost 250 years old and is more of a tourist destination than a church at this point (although he does still hold Sunday sessions). There is nothing supernatural, and this isn't an in-your-face religious film, either. This film is about a lot of things. It has A LOT to say about the current state of the environment, and it even touches on politics and the power of corporations. But there's more than that, it's about the personal struggles of Reverend Toller, who has lived a life filled with isolation and sorrow ever since his son was killed in Iraq. We get a lot of insight into the character of Reverend Toller through personal journal entries that he makes and then reads for the audience, and it's made clear that while he may initially appear like a well kept together man, he is nothing of the sort. He is sick with what appears to be cancer, and he is a man filled with despair. When he finds something that makes him question everything (the current state of the environment), he slowly becomes engulfed by it, to a point that frankly I found quite shocking. This film is a very slow burn. It's very serious as well. You won't find much, if any, humor, so it relies purely on the story to keep the audience engaged, and it did just that. I was captivated until the very end, which I must say is something I've been thinking about all day. The acting is excellent, the script is fantastic, and the story kept me intrigued despite being very slow. First Reformed really is one of the best overall films of the year, and I'm sure it'll get some recognition when the award shows swing around. However, you might notice that I only gave it an 8, and really it came down to the fact that this isn't a film that I'm just gonna pop into the Blu-Ray player on a Saturday night when I wanna watch a movie. The re-watchability is just not super high, which inevitably brought down its score. That doesn't mean it's not a great film, though. Expand
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9
imdoingmypartJun 8, 2018
"Will God forgive us?" This question sits at the center of First Reformed, Paul Schrader's latest film dealing with faith, devotion, grief, morality, hypocrisy, and a general feeling of existential crisis. Ethan Hawke stars as Reverend"Will God forgive us?" This question sits at the center of First Reformed, Paul Schrader's latest film dealing with faith, devotion, grief, morality, hypocrisy, and a general feeling of existential crisis. Ethan Hawke stars as Reverend Toller, a Catholic priest at a dying church in upstate New York. Toller is given the task of counseling a young married couple, more specifically the husband, who is becoming reclusive and radical according to his wife (played by Amanda Seyfriend). Toller does not offer judgment but rather wisdom and comfort, sometimes successfully while other times at a distance. While almost exclusively patient, calm, and well-intended, Toller is isolated and removed from the world around him.

Early in the film, Toller reveals that his son was killed in Iraq after joining the military due to family tradition.Though he does discuss the pain and grief following his son's death, Toller does not physically demonstrate his pain beyond his stoicism. It seems impossible that a man could remain so faithful and reverent after the loss of his child and the dissolution of his marriage. Make no mistake: though he keeps it subdued, Toller's grief is central to First Reformed and its exploration of multiple individuals' characters and beliefs. The film does not take jabs at some of the obvious forces present in the film - military, religion, activism, capitalism - but rather sits back and lets the audience form its own judgments.

First Reformed is most exciting in its ability to navigate its many ideas and emotions in near fluidity. While often a dramatic and tragic character study, the film, at times, is a horror film at heart. At other times, it is a study and comparison of faith and religion. Sometimes its characters are distant while at other times their actions can be completely justified. The same steady, patient camera captures one shot of personal outburst and another shot of a still wine glass just a couple scenes away. Few filmmakers can even attempt to cover the before-mentioned topics of personal faith, religious devotion, overwhelming grief, and morality and its justification all within a two hour time frame, but Schrader, the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, not only exceeds expectations but also manages to fit in creative camera work, quiet moments of speechless physical performance, comedic relief, and pointed questions that do not leave the audience unsatisfied but rather motivated to begin asking introspective questions that are too personal to be answered on screen. In many ways, First Reformed is difficult to discuss due to its piercing, personal nature. In other ways, it merits some of the most interesting discussion in film this year. First Reformed does not seek to ties its events and ideas up into a neat package but rather to quietly explode on screen and draw the audience not only to seek discussion with other viewers but also to open an internal discussion and personal exploration that only the masters of filmmaking can inspire.
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1
duanewilliamsJun 8, 2018
I hated almost everything about this film. The characters are irrational. It looks like a film made for an old CRT TV. The ending is all wrong. It is very slow and I was very bored most of the time. None of the characters are likable.
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4
TVJerryJun 14, 2018
This film seems to be a real critics' darling for its intellectual arguments and Ethan Hawke's intense performance, but I didn't enjoy it (call me a superficial hack). First, it's paced with many pauses, long scenes of somber dialogue andThis film seems to be a real critics' darling for its intellectual arguments and Ethan Hawke's intense performance, but I didn't enjoy it (call me a superficial hack). First, it's paced with many pauses, long scenes of somber dialogue and mostly static camera. Second, the blending of religion and environmental discussion left me flat. Hawke is in almost every scene as the pastor of a small Dutch Reform church. He starts out writing a journal and spends much of the film's narrative reading from it. The inevitable climax was telegraphed pretty early on, but watching its development was only mildly interesting. This is hailed as a return to form for writer/director Paul Schrader and it does take an unusual premise and develop it with intelligence. I just found it tedious and pretentious (and the ending full of flaws in logic). Expand
1 of 4 users found this helpful13
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8
preciouskikiJun 18, 2018
How about this for an honest, off-the-cuff review. This is the actual email that I just sent to a friend, recommending this movie with some caveats: "Dear (so-and-so), The Ethan Hawke movie I mentioned is at the Avon. It’s called “FirstHow about this for an honest, off-the-cuff review. This is the actual email that I just sent to a friend, recommending this movie with some caveats: "Dear (so-and-so), The Ethan Hawke movie I mentioned is at the Avon. It’s called “First Reformed.” You might like it. Or might not! It’s different… it would definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, though. He is the minister of a church, sent to counsel a woman whose husband is depressed and possibly suicidal. And Ethan has his own issues. (And you have to listen carefully to some monologues to understand his inner workings.) So it’s not exactly uplifting, but Ethan Hawke is good in it, and I am a fan of his, so that’s why I went to see it. The ending was remarkable – literally – as leaving the theatre, a number of different unrelated moviegoers paused to discuss the ending, each having come away with a different impression, yet fully convinced that was the only possible way to see it. (Of course, my reaction was the only feasible one, heh-heh.)" Expand
0 of 1 users found this helpful01
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2
imthenoobAug 8, 2018
Hawke gives a great performance but this movie is just...eh. It didn't need to be 2 hours long, It really didn't. The story just doesn't have enough going on to really justify that. But the real disappointing thing to me is that the trailerHawke gives a great performance but this movie is just...eh. It didn't need to be 2 hours long, It really didn't. The story just doesn't have enough going on to really justify that. But the real disappointing thing to me is that the trailer made it out to be an entirely different film than what it really was. Expand
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9
johnem95Aug 4, 2018
Haunting, heavy, and thought-provoking, yet, a dash hopeful (if you choose to view it that way). Terrific performances turned in by Hawke and Seyfried. One of the year's best films.
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7
amheretojudgeAug 1, 2018
an apotheosis of humane emotions..

First Reformed 3 And A Half Out Of 5 First Reformed is a character driven dramatic take on the repercussions that good and bad deeds leads to and has led to. The tone of the feature is poignant and dark
an apotheosis of humane emotions..

First Reformed

3 And A Half Out Of 5

First Reformed is a character driven dramatic take on the repercussions that good and bad deeds leads to and has led to. The tone of the feature is poignant and dark that endorses its concept and is palpable to it throughout the course of the feature. The metaphorical cinematography and eerie d.o.p. helps lure in the audience and keep them intrigued in its pathos bubble and rooting for its pragmatic characters. The production design is neat, finely detailed and pleasing to encounter along with its stunning camera work. The emotions drawn out from the characters does communicate where the performance and execution plays a vital role along with a narrative element inserted as a habitual diary writing. The background score is edited and polished aptly and is also wisely absent at times, leaving the audience with an experience of listening a clock tick which frankly it has been a while since I encountered in a feature.

An unhealthy state and few cringe worthy moments are not only inedible and powerful but beautifully poetic that speaks volume in here. The writing is sharp, adaptive and gripping with thought-provoking policies that never grows pretentious and is instead kept subtle. Paul Schrader; the writer-director, has done an excellent work on executing and pulling off such an obscure world. As mentioned earlier, Ethan Hawke is achingly good and deserves all the praise for its majestic performance where he is supported decently by Amanda Seyfried. Schrader's world is helpless in here since the work is drawn out from each and every step and character which is more appalling and dark than its concept. Few mellow monologues, its slow yet impactful character development and soothing little tactics to sweeten the moments are the high points of the feature. First Reformed is an apotheosis of humane emotions whose subjective procedure makes worth its final product.
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5
The4thBillboardJun 23, 2018
I am giving the a score of 5 and based on the comments I heard from other people leaving the theater most of them would have rated it lower. The only thing I can think is that people who liked its message about the environment felt obligatedI am giving the a score of 5 and based on the comments I heard from other people leaving the theater most of them would have rated it lower. The only thing I can think is that people who liked its message about the environment felt obligated to give it high scores. It did have its good points but not enough. Expand
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10
JakobkrossAug 12, 2018
First Reformed is solid gold. The film is striking on a visual level because every shot is rich with balance, depth and artful levels of symmetry, despite the fact that the film is presented in an unusual aspect ratio, it pulls its viewers inFirst Reformed is solid gold. The film is striking on a visual level because every shot is rich with balance, depth and artful levels of symmetry, despite the fact that the film is presented in an unusual aspect ratio, it pulls its viewers in with nonstop beautiful photography. Meanwhile, a thought-provoking story unfolds with some of the best acting I've seen in awhile. The entire cast (from Hawke to Seyfried to Cedric Kyles) delivers fantastic performances.

First Reformed's fantastic qualities combined into an experience that is more than a movie, it is a piece of art. If you like technique, you will love First Reformed.

Writing: 9/10 Direction: 10/10 Cinematography: 10/10 Acting: 10/10 Editing: 9/10 Casting: 10/10
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9
JamesNJun 21, 2018
This isn't a movie that's going to appeal to a mass audience. If you are looking to be cheered up -- or a date movie -- this isn't the film to go to. But if you like thoughtful movies with suspense, good dialogue and meaning, you should like it.
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7
Bertaut1Aug 12, 2018
Most reviews I've seen of First Reformed have praised it as Paul Schrader's best work since either Taxi Driver or Raging Bull. And whilst I think that's an oversimplification, it is easily his best film of the last fifteen years or so.

First
Most reviews I've seen of First Reformed have praised it as Paul Schrader's best work since either Taxi Driver or Raging Bull. And whilst I think that's an oversimplification, it is easily his best film of the last fifteen years or so.

First Reformed tells a deceptively simple story – Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) is the parish priest of a small congregation in the Snowbridge suburb of New York. A former military chaplain, Toller is struggling with the death of his son, Joseph, who he encouraged to enlist, and who was killed several months into his first tour in Iraq. As a result, Toller's marriage fell apart, with his wife blaming him for Joseph's death. As the film begins, Toller's spiritual crisis is already well under way. He's drinking too much, doesn't show much interest in his official duties, doesn't seem bothered that his congregation has dwindled to about ten people, and has taken to recording his thoughts in a journal which he plans to keep for one year, and then destroy. After Sunday mass, Toller is approached by Mary (Amanda Seyfried), one of his parishioners, who is worried about her husband, Michael (Philip Ettinger). A radical environmentalist who has just been released from prison in Canada, Michael has developed extreme nihilistic views, and wants Mary to abort their unborn child because he doesn't think anyone has the right to bring a child into a dying world. Although initially reluctant to get involved, Mary persuades Toller to counsel Michael. Meanwhile, the 250th anniversary of the First Reformed church from which Toller works is fast approaching, with a huge service to be attended by both the governor and mayor.

The most striking thing to me about First Reformed was that it is brilliantly shot in Academy ratio (1.37:1), and as a result, everything is boxed in, suggesting little room for movement, with very little empty space in the frame. Coupled with this, Schrader is remarkably consistent in composing perfectly symmetrical shots (the opening scene is a good example). Together, the small frame and the symmetrical compositions give one the impression of looking at a confessional, with the priest on one side and the confessor on the other. As Toller's journal entries occur throughout the film in the form of voiceover, this aesthetic replication of a confessional is enhanced even further – although Toller is not the priest hearing the confession, he is the one confessing. In line with this, First Reformed is not an easy film to watch. It's central themes are suffering, loss of faith, nihilism, and environmental catastrophe, and the way the film is shot, with the added intimacy of the journal, make it seems as if the audience is suffering right alongside Toller; we're drawn completely into his world, and even his mind, in a way very few films achieve. Schrader allows the content to brilliantly dictate the form, with the two becoming so intertwined as to be virtually indistinguishable from one another – a concept most filmmakers don't seem to even understand, let alone have the ability to accomplish. Interestingly this is the second film in the last twelve months to use Academy ratio for explicit narrative reasons, the other being David Lowery's superb A Ghost Story.

However, that is not to say First Reformed is perfect. There are parts where it is extraordinarily clunky. For example, there's the wake where a group of environmentalists start singing an awful cappella version of Neil Young's activist song, "Who's Gonna Stand up?", or the scene where Mary and Toller take (figurative) flight through the power of holding hands. Additionally, although I've seen many reviews talking about how thought-provoking the environmentalist side of the story is, for me it never really coalesced into anything coherent. Rather than the film presenting this as nothing more than the backdrop against which Toller's crisis takes place, and thus purposely rendering it unimportant in and of itself, Schrader seems to be trying to genuinely shoehorn in a call-to-action. Which is fairly out of place. But they're minor faults, and all things considered, this is a high-quality film. Will it be in contention come awards season? Possibly. Schrader has always had a fraught relationship with the Academy (hard to believe he's never even been nominated for a single Oscar), but this is the kind of serious subject matter that voters usually lap up. I certainly wouldn't be surprised to see Hawke get some acting nods, possibly Seyfried too. Irrespective of that (and we all know the amount of Oscar nominations a film gets has very little to do with its quality), this is a strong film made by a skilled artist about a subject matter for which he clearly feels deeply.

7/10
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