The Devil All The Time
Production Companies: Nine Stories Productions & Bronx Moving Company
Director: Antonio Campos
Producers: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker, Randall Poster & Max Born
Scriptwriters: Paulo Campos, Antonio Campos & Donald Ray Pollock
Main Cast: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, Harry Melling, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Eliza Scanlen, Riley Keough & Jason Clarke
Release Date: September 11 2020
Running Time: 139 Minutes
The Devil All the Time, which is available to stream on Netflix, is a story set in southern America. And the film presents the bizarre stories of multiple generations by exploring the popular American genre of the ‘Grotesque.’ This is a literary technique common with American authors and directors. It aims to leave viewers feeling disturbed and haunted by each character’s story. The narrative reveals connections between religion and evil. It’s a dark tale filled with tragedy; a film which guarantees to shock you.
The story begins with the classic tale of father and son. Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård) returns to Ohio after serving as a Soldier in World War II. The narrator (Donald Ray Pollock) explains Willard suffers from PTSD. Then, the film cuts to a disturbing scene that provides an explanation of Willard’s condition. We see a fellow soldier crucified, barely alive on the cross.
Later, Willard falls in love and marries a woman called Charlotte. Not long after, the family expands as Charlotte gives birth to their first child, Arvin. As revealed by the narrator, moments of happiness are often cut short. Charlotte diagnosed with Cancer. As an illustration of his faith, Willard and Arvin (although he has no choice) take comfort in the belief of dark rituals. that sacrifice may be the answer to their prayers. Conflicted with emotion with the aim to save his wife, Willard convinces Arvin that the dark rituals of the faith (I’ll spare you the gory details!) will save his mother. Their ritual eventually proved to be false, Charlotte unfortunately dies. Soon after the funeral, Arvin finds his father dead, lying on the rustic prayer shrine. Sheriff Lee Bodecker takes Arvin to his Grandmother.
Comparable, Roy Laferty (Harry Melling) a character especially obsessed with the dark ritual of sacrifice. A young preacher who delivers his sermon to the local church. He falls in love with Helen Hatton (Mia Wasikowska) an orphaned woman. Similar to the prior narrative, they begin their family life swiftly and have a child named Lenora. Leaving Lenora with Willard’s mother, Roy takes his obsession with faith to the next level. After ‘communicating’ with God, he believes that he has been given the power of resurrection. He violently stabs Helen in the neck, proving his theory to be wrong.
Two children orphaned through the obsession of faith, the story moves to the year 1964 which sees a grown-up Arvin (Tom Holland) and Lenora (Eliza Scanlen) living with Willard Russell’s Mother. In spite of the negative connections to faith, the family continues to be ‘good’ Christians. Notably, they attend each Sunday service and as a result of this, they support the church with their new preacher. A new preacher, Reverend Preston Teagardi (Robert Pattinson) adds to the corruption. He becomes ‘romantically’ involved with Lenora.
With this in mind, Arvin takes it upon himself to intervene and to try and stop the vicious cycle of evil. The lesson that he learned from his father earlier in the film to fight violence with violence, Holland’s character does just that fight violence with violence, Holland’s character does just that.
As a result of learning that the Reverend was the father of Lenora’s unborn child, a tense and dark scene see’s Arvin put an end to Reverend Preston’s behaviour. To continue the story Arvin is now on the run and as a consequence, he connects himself to another narrative.
Then, the narrative explores the life of Carl (Jason Clarke) and Sandy (Riley Keough). They live by attracting hitchhikers, murdering them, and committing further crimes. They soon meet Arvin Russell. After Carl attempts to start his murder ritual with Arvin, he defends himself and in doing so, he kills them both. Sandy’s brother, Sheriff Lee Bodecker (Sebastian Stan) reports to the second murder scene and suspects that Arvin is responsible for both murders.
Finally, Arvin hitchhikes to his family home. At this time, Arvin is confronted by Lee in the woods. In short, they both exchange shots. To conclude, Lee is killed by Arvin’s Luger. Arvin confronts Lee with a polaroid of Sandy which incriminates her. The scene suggests that the Sherriff committed suicide after learning about the activities of his sister.
The Devil All The Time has a complex and intense storyline. In summary, it is a violent southern gothic production. Importantly, the film features multiple narratives that intertwine with faith, evil, and ultimately one another.
Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson receive an honourable mention from me for their performance in the film. A new role for both admired actors, the actors perform incredibly strong parts which keep audiences interested in such a complex story.
In the case of Holland’s career, prior to watching this film, I was a Marvel fan. After watching the Spider-Man films, it was interesting to see Holland adapt to such a sinister role so well. Robert Pattison’s southern accent which has caused controversy on the internet, for me, was brilliant. In particular, the richness of the accent provided further darkness to his character.
Although the film offers an interesting storyline and a strong cast, the framing narrative became lost. For me, I struggled to keep up with the separate narratives making it complex to connect all the stories together. Previously, on my first watch of the film, I had to look up a plot summary to understand how everyone was all connected! However, as I was intrigued by the film so much, I watched it a second time, and the film was much more enjoyable and easier to understand.
To conclude, The Devil All The Time is an incredibly sinister watch, but one that is well worth the screen time. Furthermore, with the incredible performances from the entire cast alongside the dirty visuals of southern America, Campos has produced a film well worthy of multiple awards.
Target Audience: 18+
Content: Mature Themes incl. Violence, Suicide, Nudity, Sexual Violence, Strong Language & Firearms
Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good
For more information about The Devil All The Time, click here.