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The Devil All The Time: Netflix Movie Review

The Devil All The Time: Netflix Movie Review


The Devil All The Time
releases globally on Netflix September 16th 2020.

Starring: Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Harry
Melling, Eliza Scanlen, Pokey LaFarge, Mia Wasikowska, Robert Pattinson

Directed by: Antonio Campos

Screenplay: Antonio & Paul Campos

 


The Devil All The Time

Based on Donald Ray Pollock’s award-winning, rural Gothic thriller, The Devil All The Time is coming to Netflix September 16th 2020. However, this cinematic adaptation doesn’t just do the book justice – it gives it a real run for its money.

Netflix

The Devil All The Time

A story told over decades, nestled between World War II and the Vietnam War, The Devil All The Time touches upon many lives, however it revolves most closely around that of Arvin Russell (Tom Holland). The son of a WWII veteran (Bill Skarsgård), tragic circumstances soon take Arvin from one back-road town to another. He moves in with his Grandmother, his uncle, and Lenora – the closest thing he has to a sister. Tragedy, it seems, is destined to plague Arvin and those he knows and loves for the rest of their lives.

Netflix

 

The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me

The Devil All The Time is a heavy book, both in size and subject matter. It’s an intricate tale that weaves itself together without you realising until you’re tangled in the middle. Adapting this for the screen was no small feat. It becomes very clear very quickly, however, that brothers Antonio and Paul Campos intended to approach this task with the due respect it deserved. The Devil All The Time is a masterclass in novel-to-film adaptation. With a laundry list of characters and the high-calibre talent poised to play them, you’d be forgiven for assuming that The Devil All The Time would be crowded, rushed, or frantic. To that, we say, have faith.

Netflix

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Although we have a wealth of characters to and stories to explore, The Devil All The Time affords us enough time (or narrator-given exposition, voiced by Pollock himself), to know each character as a person; a full, whole person. Each scene, each exchange of dialogue, each detail is carefully and deliberately selected so that after each of the 139 minutes we have, we know someone or feel something all the more – for better or for worse. Mostly likely, in fact, for the worse. Incidents are raised, addressed, and overcome concisely, while still maintaining the appropriate emotional gravitas; be it grief, shock, or desperation. Even, occasionally, comfort.

There’s not a bad performance among them throughout the whole film. The respect that each individual has for Campos’ impeccably crafted script, as well as the book itself, is palpable. The commitment and sincerity from each actor only makes it easier for us to follow them down their wretched paths.

 

Netflix

God and Satan

Any media that puts religion and faith into question jumps quickly onto my watch list. Faith and what makes it tick for us is something that I have studied, and it seems I’m not the only one. A quintessentially rural, Southern Gothic setting provides the perfect crucible for religion, power, faith, and family to come together whether they want to or not. The Devil All The Time feels at once a momentous tale of the overwhelming dark side of human nature and religious morals, whilst also providing an intimate, almost folkloric look into the life of a person unwilling to let us peek.

Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård) quickly sets the tone for how religion is to be taken throughout The Devil All The Time. Quite right, too, given that the titular quote is in reference to his character, who seems to his son Arvin to be “fighting the Devil all the time”. Willard’s oppressive, abusive, and futile attempts to beg God for help stick with Arvin into adulthood. Arvin is confronted at a young age with the potentially crushing, devastating reality that God may not be as omnipresent and omnipotent as he believed. In fact, he may have left the building altogether. Religious imagery follows Arvin like a shadow, throughout the film. Maybe God is a little more present than we gave him credit for.

 

Netflix

Immortal Soul 

Pastor Teagardin (Robert Pattinson) is an uncomfortable character to start, and a downright repulsive one to end. Much like the religious doctrine he preaches, or at least the way we see it here, he is merciless and brutally hypocritical. Pattinson’s performance is deeply nuanced and he easily creates a character who is profoundly troubling and unnerving. Pattinson has been flexing his range for years now, and this is a mighty fine string to add to his mighty fine bow.

Eliza Scanlan puts in a delicate but hugely moving performance as Lenora, Arvin’s sister-of-sorts, and the two create a bond on screen that feels truly genuine and honest. Jason Clarke and Riley Keough share an undeniable chemistry as twisted lovers. Keough matches this charisma with her on-screen brother, town Sheriff Lee Bowdecker (Sebastian Stan). Stan and Holland are no strangers to acting alongside one another, but the scenes they share in The Devil All The Time make you forget whoever else they may have been (which is pretty impressive, coming from me).

 

Netflix

 

The Devil in the Silence

A special and emphatic mention amidst the swathes of talent must go to Randall Poster, the music supervisor (and the person who gave Pollock’s book to Campos in the first place). Along with composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, Poster creates an atmosphere in a way that few recent films have for me.

Misplaced nostalgia, comfort, and sweetness find their way in where you least expect them. The sound mixing and editing throughout The Devil All The Time are so subtle and certain that they can draw your attention to minutiae that would ordinarily rely upon visual cues. Blood dripping onto dried leaves, the methodical and solemn shovelling of earth, the aspirated barking of a distressed dog in a locked car. Sound is used so very impressively throughout that you can’t help but wonder how so many other films have missed the mark by such a margin. It’s truly, truly gorgeous.

 

Netflix

 

The Devil All The Time

The Devil all the Time is not a film for everyone. This film, it feels to me, was made to be studied. Far from an easy watch, it’s an erudite, uncomfortable piece of cinema that feels like a dusty, sun-parched documentary of misspent lives with an ever-waning glimmer of hope at the end…which is absolutely and perfectly how it should feel. Some career-highlight performances take a flawlessly composed and edited script and make it something even more impressive. The Devil All The Time gives us a heavy, rural Gothic thriller of lives unknowingly interwoven. It’s a desperate tale of rotten and insidious power, of family, and of retribution – bloody and well-deserved. Almost as well deserved, in fact, as the acclaim for the film itself.

The Devil All The Time releases globally on Netflix September 16th 2020.

 

Netflix

 


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