Sinister characters converge around a young man devoted to protecting those he loves in a postwar backwoods town teeming with corruption and brutality.
This adaptation of the novel by Donald Ray Pollack is a deep dive into the dangers of ignorance and religious mania as a backwoods clan falls victim to a manipulative man-of-the-cloth (Robert Pattinson) as well as a special brand of psychosis sported by a roving serial killer (Jason Clarke). As adapted by Antonio Campus, the film drips with atmosphere and dread, as the rural way of life the characters are trapped in is portrayed as a horrific trap from which there is little hope of escape. Violent and jarring, you’ll find this one hard to shake, while Holland and Pattinson continue to impress in their respective roles. 3 ½ Stars. 138 minutes. Rated R.
“The Devil All the Time,” based on the book by Donald Ray Pollock, is a riveting yet disturbing journey through the events and final intersections of the life of Arvin Russell (Tom Holland). The thinking in this rural town in Ohio is backwards which is putting it mildly, but the through-line of it all revolves around religion. Using informative narration to support what we are witnessing, we are introduced to Arvin as a child and are privy to his tragic upbringing and the horrific events which followed. We also better understand the multiple characters’ storylines and their backstories as they all play an important role in Arvin’s decisions and the consequences thereof. Each one of the characters, from Reverend Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson) and Arvin’s father Willard (Bill Skarsgard) to Carl Henderson (Jason Clarke) and Roy Laferty (Harry Melling), have their demons which surface in unexpected and sometimes shockingly gruesome ways.
This is a complex story filled with intricate details which richly develop each of the stories and the characters within. The narration gives the viewer a direct connection to the story and those unique characters as we witness murders and corruption within the confines of a small rural boundary. Holland’s performance is exceptional making us quickly forget he was every the awkward and snarky Spider-Man. As we watch his world devolve, we have compassion for him even though his decisions are less than morally correct. Pattinson gives an equally superb performance as the creepy reverend who uses God as his perverted excuse for seducing young women. The entire ensemble cast is stellar with each actor receiving the spot light to create memorable performances. I may never be able to look at Clarke in the same light, though!
“The Devil All the Time” is a slow burn showcasing how the environment, education, and religion all churn together to produce a captivatingly in-depth story that haunts you long after the credits roll. While the running time is long (this easily could have been a mini-series), it’s well-worth the time as characters are explored and the final crossroads of lives merge in a satisfying yet understated way.