Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska, and Robert Pattinson. That is a remarkable cast for a movie, which is precisely the thing that got my attention when Netflix first announced its adaptation of The Devil All the Time, based on the novel by Donald Ray Pollock. I wasn’t familiar with the novel nor was I a massive fan of director Antonio Campos (who co-wrote the script with Paulo Campos) either, but when you assemble a cast like this for a movie, you’re going to pique my interest.
So is Netflix’s new movie worth watching? Absolutely… depending on what you enjoy and the type of movie you are looking for. There’s no escaping that The Devil All the Time is a film packed with intensity, emotion, and some deep and layered characters that are worth watching. However, the different intersecting stories that make up this film are also all rather morbid, depressing and at times harrowing affairs that won’t exactly leave you in a positive mood by the end of it. Pretty much this film features in many ways the worst of humanity and people who have been thrust in the worst situations and how they struggle to cope.
The Devil All the Time follows a collection of disparate stories that are connected and intersect over time. Skarsgard plays a returning soldier who falls for a waitress (Haley Bennett) despite the intentions of his mom to marry the more religious Helen (Wasikowska). They go on to become the parents of Arvin (Holland). Stan stars as a local sheriff who gets himself a little too involved in the criminal underbelly to keep his reputation afloat while also trying to protect his serial-killer sister. Clarke and Keough star as that serial killing couple while Tom Holland eventually becomes orphaned along with Helen’s daughter Lenora (Scanlen) and they have to struggle through a variety of challenges. Intersecting some of these stories are a duo of conflicted, flawed and misleading religious leaders (Pattison, Harry Melling) who only make matters even more miserable.
The story is told in a narrative format that jumps around considerably between the different timelines and locations, but all in a way that makes sense and at no point do you feel lost by the plot. Pollock himself provides some narration as well to further provide some backdrop behind certain characters and their actions to keep things focues. Not every storyline or character gets similar treatment with Hollands’s Arvin easily receiving the most backstory justifying his motivation. It’s a backstory that actually takes a fair amount of time to play out and form, but the pay-off at the end is worth it.
The Devil All the Time’s cast certainly lives up to their reputations and all deliver capable performances that make you connect with each of their character’s fateful predicaments. It is a film really designed for its cast with a script that really calls for a lot of emotion within the circumstance while Campos simply allows the many scenes to play out as emotively as possible without letting the camera do too much of the talking. It is a solid dose of filmmaking even if not a great one.
The different stories are all really about a consistent theme of a desire for inner peace and some form of religious/spiritual connection, sll while struggling with failed morality and religious abuse though. Those religious overtones are carried throughout The Devil All the Time, from the very first scenes which set up the film to the very last frame where a certain character is left determining if they may be forgiven for their acts. It is not an anti-Christian message by any means though but rather just showcasing at how easily people can be corrupted from their morals and led astray. A stinging portrait into the human psyche that is sadly not easy viewing.
Another deterrent for others might be the languid pace of the movie. While the film certainly has its many moments of violence and drama, its overall brooding tone plays out slowly, especially at the start, and so you aren’t likely to be easily engaged into this movie. You need to put in the effort to reap the reward. It’s a good reward, even if the overall mood is a harrowing one.
The Devil All the Time is a rather grim collection of stories that are incredibly well acted and told. It is a captivating, yet depressing story and if you’re in the mood for some melancholic introspection and fantastic acting performances then this might be the movie for you. If you are looking for pick-me-up entertainment though, stay well clear.
Last Updated: September 22, 2020