The Devil All the Time | Antonio Campos | September 16, 2020

The earth is full of sin and despite those that put faith into our institutions, there is an evilness that lingers throughout, corrupting us all. No, this is not me commenting on the state of America in the present day, but just some of the themes that run through The Devil All the Time.

Antonio Campos directs and co-writes with his brother Paulo Campos, adapting from Donald Ray Pollock’s novel of the same name that casts a light on the darkness of smalltown middle America despite their deep foundation of religion and the hope that they are cast free from sin, it seems to find them anyway.

The film shows us the generation line of a family, starting with the return of Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård) from World War II where he meets falls in love with Charlotte Russell (Haley Bennett) they have a son named Arvin (Michael Banks Repeta). But tragedy strikes the family and we see teenage Arvin (Tom Holland) living with his grandmother Emma (Kristin Griffith) and great-uncle Earskell (David Atkinson), as well as his adoptive sister Lenora (Eliza Scanlen).

We see a revolving cast of characters including the arrival of the young Reverend Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson) into the community as well as the on-going risqué activities of Carl and Sandy Henderson (Jason Clarke & Riley Keough) and Sheriff Bodecker (Sebastian Stan) who all have secrets of their own to hide and yet their paths will all converge in big pivotal moments that led to the same road, that is eventually Arvin and his family.

The Devil All the Tim show the impact of generations of people impacted by violence, corruption in both their lives, but with sin. It shows the power of faith or the fallacy of it. It’s a dark gritty experience, one with a pretty bleak view of our time on earth, at least especially when stuck in this small town where the devil resides, despite all of the faith and praying that goes around, at least on the surface.

Campos films it all in a gritty fashion, with the cinematography from Lol Crawley really playing into the heartland look of old-fashioned America of that time period, embracing grain, as well as the darkness of the world. One of the more interesting choices by Camps is the use of voiceover narration from Pollock who narrates as if you’re reading the book straight from the pages. While I found the choice to have him narrate rather clever, Campos relies on it a bit too heavily here where it may overstep in bounds, and it’s welcome.

It’s a bleak and rather joyless affair, one that could be seen as a tad too depressing, one that takes its time as well, clocking in at a hefty runtime of 138 minutes. It takes its time through these episodic chapters of sorts showing each generation as it builds towards its violent conclusion. It mostly works thanks to the rather ridiculous cast that has, with some pretty great performances from Holland, Skarsgård, Stan, Clarke and Keough. Pattinson’s accent may waver a bit too much into its own thing, although he does capture the essence of a seedy religious figure quite well.

While it all may play into too familiar territory at times, may not cut deep enough with its commentary on relgion, and is a rather long and exhausting dark experience, there’s plenty of great performances and craft here to make The Devil All the Time an experience still worth putting some of your faith in.

Rating: 7.3/10