Ever since the pandemic it seems as though Netflix has been distributing more book to movie adaptations. “The Devil All the Time” is the newest addition and adds a layer of violence to their catalog. Robert Pattinson and Tom Holland steal the show in this gothic thriller set in the backwoods of small town Knockemstiff, Ohio.

The film takes place between the end of WWII and the beginning of the Vietnam war. “The Devil All the Time” follows several characters throughout their lives and documents the ways in which evil and violence manages to creep in no matter how far they go. The film turns out to be a bloody tale that acts more than it talks.

The film follows Arvin — played by Tom Holland — beginning with his childhood after the tragic death of his mother, played by Haley Bennett, and then later his father, played by Bill Skarsgård. The film then fast forwards to the future where the viewer learns he is in foster care and is overprotective of his foster sister — played by Mia Wasikowska — to the point where he nearly pulverizes his sister’s bullies to death. One day, a tragic event occurs to his sister that forever changes the course of his life and everyone around him.

While Arvin is the main character of the film, as he is easily the most important and fundamental character to the story, the film also features several other important side characters as well. Each with their own evil secrets that eventually become uncovered. 

At the beginning of the movie the narrator utters, “Everyone here is bound by blood.” This foreshadows the structure of the film’s narrative. The way in which the film executes the intertwining stories of each character was done seamlessly; we see events occur in one character’s life in the first act that affect another character’s future life in the latter half of the movie.

When it comes to the devil lurking about the town, this movie does not disappoint. As every character has a violent secret they are constantly put in situations in need of defense. Needless to say, the movie is both bloody and gory.

The body count isn’t comparable to a Tarantino film, but there is enough blood and guts to make you a bit numb to the violence towards the end. The main message of the film is muddled within the violence — I felt as though some of it was unnecessary. 

This is where another problem with the film comes in. The exposition of the movie was not nearly as exciting as the rest and so, as a result, in the latter half of the film I didn’t really care for some characters when they were placed in tense situations. 

Because the characters had their own stories, I desired more backstories. In retrospect, these characters are rather shallow. Riley Keough and Jason Clarke play a murderous couple; what were their motives and why did they do the things they did? I also wanted to know more about Robert Pattinson’s character as the new preacher in town. 

While the movie’s central message isn’t clear, the way that it handles its religious themes is prominent and well done. Considering mostly every character is Christian, it’s one of the film’s main elements. Even though everyone appears wholesome on the outside, they still manage to end up in horrible circumstances. It suggests how religion can help people redeem themselves but may also be misinterpreted and used for selfish reasons. I like this approach, to me it felt more nuanced in its portrayal. 

If you are looking for a movie with wholesome emotional moments then I would strongly suggest that you skip this one. However, if you enjoy a dark thriller and unpredictable scenes filled with action-packed violence, then this is a good movie to indulge yourself in. 

Title: The Devil All the Time

Star Rating: Two and a half out of five 

Good:

  • Great acting, accents were entertaining to listen to
  • The way each character’s story was intertwined with each other was clever
  • Nuanced expression of religion

Bad:

  • Lack of a strong message is substituted with indulgent violence
  • Exposition was slow and didn’t provide enough substance
  • Characters themselves were shallow
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