The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time directed by Antonio Campos is a moody drama that succeeds in building well-etched characters. Narrated by Donald Ray Pollock, the author of the book of the same name, this Tom Holland starrer eventually has that disturbing factor to its credit. Usually these moody coming of age kind of films tends to have a pacing issue that would distract the viewer (chances are high when you are watching it on Netflix in the afternoon), but in this case, I found myself looking at each character curiously.

It is difficult to reveal the premise of the movie in a nutshell as it floats from one character to another. The primary focus here is the character named Arvin Russell. Arvin’s father was a war veteran and life wasn’t really easy for Arvin in his childhood. What happened in his childhood and how the teenager Arvin also went through problems that somewhere had similar entities on the opposite side is what the movie The Devil All the Time showing us.

I have not read the source material by Mr. Pollock so this review won’t be a comparison of the book and the movie. The two hours and twenty minutes long movie is actually about a pool of characters that are interlinked through multiple incidents. It takes a while for the movie to reach Arvin Russell because it wants to establish multiple characters in the larger picture before his entry. Even though Willard Russell and Carl Henderson, two important characters in the narrative, are meeting their partners at the same place at the same time, they never really run into each other. The movie sets up that dramatic element of strangers with some connections from the beginning itself. Then it jumps forward to different points in the timeline and it maintains that connection in some form or the other.

Usually, this interlinking between characters offers a chance for the filmmakers to construct a thriller. But this movie is more about each character and their psychological side. Co-written and directed by Antonio Campos, I found myself thinking about the characters. Carl’s wife Sandy who wanted to end what she was forced to do, Lenora who had immense faith in religious institutions and got betrayed, Willard Russell who was perplexed and haunted by his past deeds, Sheriff Lee Bodecker who loved his sister are all characters that get a place in your heart as their death somewhere has that element of injustice. And ultimately it’s about this young boy Arvin Russell who gets involved in almost all these tragic incidents and manages to survive. The screenplay has gentle pacing and it never really lingers on a particular phase in the story. Lol Crawley creates that vintage vibe in his frames. The cuts had a major role in giving the vast plot a comprehensive outlook.

MCU Spidey Tom Holland played the role of the vulnerable Arvin Russell beautifully. We can sense the stubbornness and fear in his portrayal of Arvin. The innate innocence in his face only enhances the decision to cast him as Arvin. Eliza Scanlen as Lenora was really effective. Robert Pattinson as the sinister Reverend was convincing and I found the confrontation scene between him and Holland inside the church very intriguing. Bill Skarsgard as Willard Russell, Jason Clarke as Carl Henderson, Riley Keough as Sandy, and Sebastian Stan as Lee Bodecker were all very apt for their respective characters and their performances definitely added some depth to those characters.

The Devil All the Time is an emotionally absorbing dark drama and also a critique of religious extremism by showing various menacing aspects of it. What worked for me was the way they developed characters around our main protagonist Arvin Russell who also had their own share of the story. The Devil All the Time has these nuances of a thriller, but primarily it is an affecting emotional drama.

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Final Thoughts

The Devil All the Time has these nuances of a thriller, but primarily it is an affecting emotional drama.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.