A crooked cop, serial-killer lovers, and church corruption are all balled up into Netflix’s thriller movie “The Devil All the Time”. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock and interlocks parallel narratives across multiple years. The complexity of the characters and numerous deaths reel’s one in and has us rooting for the good guy who, at the same time, isn’t really the good guy.
‘The Devil All the Time’ is set in a blue-collar America town in Ohio called Knockemstiff. The film takes place in the 1950s and ’60s Ohio. Willard Russell, played by Bill Skarsgård, is the first main character introduced during an action-filled war scene that might turn your stomach. Russell develops PTSD after World War II and loses his faith in religion, but when he marries his wife Lenora, he finds the ‘will to pray again’. His uncompromising, violent attitude and views of defending family go on to influence his son. Skarsgård holds nothing back in his performance of a man suffering from all angles.
Russell’s son Arvin, played by Tom Holland, is sent to live with his grandmother and step-sister Lenora in West Virginia after his father’s unforeseeable death.
Time fast forwards to Arvin and Lenora being teenagers in high school. Lenora, played by Eliza Scanlen, is devoted to her Christian religion while Arvin, like his father, has given up on religion. Arvin shows his father’s same fighting spirit and defends Lenora from teenage boys who tease her and call her ugly.
The movie focuses heavily on Christianity and the power it has over people, particularly the negative effect it has over people. There is the evangelical preacher who proclaims he can cure-all but fails to bring someone back from the dead. Soon after that, a young preacher, played by Robert Pattinson, wedges his way into the town shouting God-fearing sermons that leaves many characters feeling shameful of themselves. He slithers his way into young girls’ lives by saying that he is only performing acts the Lord would want him to do.
Pattinson and Holland’s performances complimented each other well and showed a different style of acting than audiences are accustomed to seeing. Pattison’s southern accent was heavily forced, but despite the accent being terrible to the ears, it did add to the ugly nature of his character.
I admired the way director Antonio Campos portrayed the complexity of religion in a small town. Campos shows the internal conflict that Lenora faces as a devout Christian woman and shows her struggle with believing Pattison as a preacher and believing what is genuinely in her heart.
The beauty of the movie’s narration was much like Stephen King’s “The Shawshank Redemption”. Morgan Freeman gave us a unique sense of feeling for each character and Pollock’s narration did the same. Pollock’s smooth, southern drawl has us feeling like a character from the film is speaking directly to us. The movie is now more of a tale being shared intimately with the audience.
At one point in the movie, I wondered which character was going to live. Campos seems to kill off characters faster than George Martin in “Game of Thrones,” but it was not a bad thing as it added to the intensity of the movie. “The Devil All the Time” had me sitting at the edge of my seat, and the 2-hour movie felt shorter than it was. The film had everything a thriller movie encompasses. It has us rooting for a character, loathing another, and the intertwining of all storylines that leave you itching to find out what is next.
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