“The Devil All the Time” is a film about violence, corruption and the darkness of human behavior across decades and different families. It tells the stories of seemingly unrelated characters as their lives intertwine and a web develops between them.
It’s a Netflix movie directed by Antonio Campos, and an adaptation of the book of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock. It was adapted to screen by Campos and his brother, Paulo Campos.
The acting in this movie is superb as every single major character is at the height of their acting abilities. In this movie, Tom Holland displays a side lesser known to the mainstream audiences, who might recognize him from the latest “Spiderman” incarnation, while portraying the closest thing to a main character. We see actors like Sebastian Stan and Robert Pattinson deliver terrifying portrayals of evil characters but, at times, seem very one-dimensional.
A true standout of the film, and perhaps the most memorable character in it, Pattinson’s Reverend Teagardin is presented as a charismatic new replacement for the local church. In his first scene it is apparent that not all is right with his character. Here, he expertly delivers a chilling performance that leaves the audience unnerved and with their guard up. We soon learn that the mistrust was well placed.
The film is visually beautiful. Laurie “Lol” Crawley demonstrates his expertise behind the camera and a tremendous potential for the future. Scenes in the nighttime truly feel like they occur in the darkness of night, not like they are shot with unnatural Hollywood lighting. Be it candlelight or moonlight, the characters are expertly and realistically lit.
The violence in the film is depicted in a shocking manner, never sensationalized, but always sickening. Crawley masterfully mixes beautiful settings with gruesome scenes that leave an impact on the viewer. Besides the acting (mainly Pattinson), the cinematography is truly the only thing that just might be perfect.
The film has the heavy task of balancing several storylines, characters and subplots that remain unrelated for the first half of the film and that at times only intersect in the third act of the film.
Although this does draw in the viewer to guess and hypothesize how they will come into play, at times it feels disengaging and transitions feel jarring. This is attenuated by the use of a narrator that does not come off as overused or pretentious. However, some storylines are easily predictable, which dampens the film’s pace.
There are two things that all characters in this movie, and their respective storylines, share: They are all authors of dark and sometimes gruesome actions and they all come to reflect on the idea of God.
Each character faces his relationship with God in their own way and every storyline finds a way to depict an unfavorable facet of believers. Faith is often used as a motivation behind character’s inexcusable actions toward other people.
Some characters explicitly reject God and fail to behave any differently than those who do not appear to reject Him. This comes across as a cheap way to write motivation and a very obvious message that falls flat at times.
The other major theme in the movie is that of the cyclical nature of existence. Actions done by fathers are then recreated by sons, which is nothing new to see on the screen.
The movie spends a great amount of time exploring the cyclical nature of hate and violence, the idea the violence only creates more violence. Nonetheless, the movie does this in no different or relevant way than countless past attempts by other films.
“The Devil All the Time” is an intriguing peek at the lives of strangers as they are consumed by their flaws and struggles. It is a pessimistic view of humanity where redemption is beyond reach and everyone shares the same fate after their sufferings.
Although the storytelling is done well enough, it fails to produce anything memorable. The powerful, occasionally frightening acting carries this movie through its long runtime.
3 out of 5 stars