Review | The Devil All The Time

“If you asked most people where Knockemstiff, Ohio or Coal Creek, West Virginia were, they probably couldn’t point ‘em out to you on a map. But I guarantee, they’d be there all the same. How and why so many people from those two piddlin’ places on that map could end up connected has a lot to do with our story. Some would claim it was just dumb luck, while others might swear it was God’s intention. But I’d say with the way things turned out, it was a little bit of both.”

As the first lines of the movie say, those two insignificant cities end up being related. Somehow a series of events start to develop when Willard Russel meets Charlotte, a waitress, in Meade, Ohio on the day he came back from the war. Completely in love with her, Russel wants to start a family with this beautiful girl, even though he had been promised by his mother to Helen Hatton, who ends up marrying the preacher Roy Laferty, with whom he has a daughter named Lenora.

The Devil All The Time is based on the eponymous novel by Donald Ray Pollock. Like the book, the film is made up of many short stories: the Russels, the Lafertys, Sandy and Carl, Sheriff Bodecker and the Reverend Preston. The events that have occurred between all of them are not just a big coincidence, but a series of unfortunate events. The Devil All The Time is a Netflix Original production and released on September 16th. 

The movie carries a lot of known names like Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Bill Skarsgård;  but even the names that we don’t know by heart have familiar faces, like Mia Wasikowska from Alice in Wonderland, Harry Melling from Harry Potter and Eliza Scanlen from Little Women. So it might be comforting to know the roles are in good hands. But was it enough? Let’s find out. But beware of the spoilers

  1. 1. A lot of blood and violence

    It’s a heavy movie. It’s not one of those someone will want to watch when they are bored. The viewer has to be in a good place to watch the thriller, so beware of the trigger warnings, this movie is not R rated for nothing. It’s full of blood and explicit scenes involving violence, suicide and murder that might not be pleasant for the eyes. Although its photography and colour palette is totally worth the view since it was so perfectly executed.

  2. 2. A special narrator

    The presence of a narrator is really important to understand how the small stories connect, and it’s nice to know that the director Antonio Campos chose Donald Ray Pollock, the novel’s writer, to do this part, which could be counted as a nice trait from the original work and an easter egg that’s only known by the end of the movie when the credits roll-up.

  3. 3. The main theme

    The movie focuses on faith and belief, especially those involving religion, which opens the debate about how religious fanaticism can be lethal and extremist, leading some people to a dark path as seen with Roy Laferty and Willard Russell, and all the things they did on behalf of the good faith in God. It’s also interesting how they took this context for criticizing those who have big positions in the church like reverends and preachers who might not be as good as people think.

    Robert Pattinson and his speeches during the film are real proof of how well spoken words can seduce someone to do things they would never do, and they have become bad people out of it. Although his accent to portray Preston was not working, it sounded sloppy and funny, rather than as deep and catchy as it should be. And Pattinson had a very short time on the screen to be considered one of the main characters, which was strange.

  4. 4. Some plots and characters left something to be desired

    Sebastian Stan is a disappointment on this one. It feels like his character is only there to link all the stories together, especially the stories of the past with the present, having no other use for in this movie. Although his final scene with Arvin in the woods was fantastic, his character could have easily been scratched out of the movie. Also, the chubby cheeks looked weird and not at all real, especially for those who know Stan from other works. 

    The same happens for Carl and Sandy since it’s hard to understand the reason why they are serial killers if you don’t pay close attention to the movie - and even if you do- you might not get it. A second watch was needed to understand more about these characters and their relationship, which is not positive. They deserved more spotlight as they had in the book, which would’ve made the movie more interesting considering they are such a unique kind of killers.

    Roy Laferty, his cousin Theodore and Helen Hatton deserved to have their story told properly, which we did not get. Their story was a bit rushed as if they wanted to quickly get back to the Russells, even though there was so much to be explored since their daughter Lenora would be so important to the story in the future. It was essential to know everything about the couple to understand why Lenora will be so lonely in the future. But how Harry Melling interpreted Roy was very impressive, considering he’s only famous for playing Dudley Dursley, we didn’t know he could act that good.

  5. 5. The relationship of Arvin and Lenora

    Lenora had one of the saddest stories in the movie and I bet it broke many hearts to see how such an innocent and lonely girl ended up having a terrible fate. Her relationship with her stepbrother Arvin was probably the most adorable thing to watch in the movie. They cared a lot about each other and were very connected because of all the terrible things that happened when they were kids, considering the terrible endings to the Larferty and Russell family.

  6. 6. The Russells

    Talking about the Russells, the people are not saying much about Bill Skarsgård's flawless performance as Willard Russell. It was so good to watch how well he fit the role of being a soldier coming back from the war and carrying all of its traumas while falling in love with a beautiful waitress. Willard was the perfect example of how love and in consequence, fear of losing their loved one, religious fanaticism and war can cause damage to a person. His scenes with young Arvin were pure gold, even though some of them might make you uncomfortable.

    It’s fun to watch how Willard and Arvin are so alike. The parallels used in the movie were very well executed and it shows how much kids look after their parents. Arvin turned out to be just like his father just by looking after him and repeating some of his mistakes in the future.  The Arvin's kid version was so good! Michael Banks Repeta is such a good actor and we should go along with him in future works. But The fact that he has blue eyes and Tom has brown eyes did bother me a little.

  7. 7. Tom Holland: the star of the film

    Tom Holland’s portrait of Arvin Russell is a nail on the coffin to bury Peter Parker for good, for getting into more serious and adult roles and definitely killing it! Well, it’s incredible to see how Tom can act using only his eyes. It could be noticed in many of his other movies like The Impossible and Spider-Man: Far From Home, but in this one, it becomes even more evident. He can transmit all of Arvin’s emotions and anguish in every single one of his movements. He’s definitely the star of the movie. Hats off to Mr. Holland!

    We can see how much Arvin cares about those he loves, so his relationship with his step-sister, Lenora, was amazingly shown in the movie. It turned out to be one of the best parts of the movie as I said before. He’s one of those characters that even though he did some bad things, you want to protect him at all costs because you feel like everything that happened in his life, all the traumas, just led him towards a terrible event. And Arvin strongly believed that he wasn’t a bad person, and that everything he did was for love and for self protection, and Tom really rocked in those strong final scenes where he kills four people and gets in contact with his traumas.

  8. 8. The lack of soundtrack works well

    The lack of soundtrack in most parts of the movie is very interesting. There’s almost no background music in most of the scenes, which only helped to build the tension and reminded a lot of Buff, The Vampire Slayer’s episode “The Body”, that has no soundtrack and was very acclaimed by the critics because of its whole context. But when it does have songs, they are gospel music, fitting the religious context of the movie.

  9. 9. A great ending

    Even though there was a lack of depth in many of the characters, how the movie closes up in the end is perfect. There are no loose ends and unanswered questions. And its low rhythm didn’t bother as much as it was supposed to be; it just fit the ambience and it was supposed to be like that. If you got interested in the movie and want to know more about the characters’ backstory, you can also go for the book to give it a read.

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The article above was edited by Camila Nascimento.

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