fatpie42’s review published on Letterboxd:
Well this was long and miserable, wasn't it?
The Devil All The Time feels like a film that successfully achieves what it intended to achieve. I just don't know that the project appeals to me. A lot of very religion focused characters often doing terrible things, sometimes even in God's name.
I mean, I'm an atheist myself and I've plenty of interest in films that satirise religion so long as it is done in a reasonably inspired or sophisticated way. However, as much as certain elements here feel very true to life, it is just such a full freakshow of horrifying figures that it's difficult to take it seriously. It's like when you are watching the Hannibal series and the psychopaths seem to be depicted like supervillains or even vampires. It's so over the top that it ceases to feel like real life.
But I recognise that nothing in The Devil All The Time is actually unrealistic per se. Two killers joyfully picking up strangers to murder? Heck, the Moor Murders involved a couple doing far worse to children. A priest who uses his influence to take advantage of a young parishioner? Once again, we've seen far worse in real life with priests abusing children. A man desperately praying for his wife to beat her cancer? Heck, that clearly happens all the time, if not normally quite so intensely. I mean, the preacher who becomes convinced that he can use faith to resurrect the dead is utterly crazy, but it's not implausible.
Tom Holland is great as the grown up version of the young protagonist at the start. I wish we'd had more Mia Wasikowska since I consider her one of the greatest actresses working today and she really doesn't feel like she gets enough screen time. The performances here are generally pretty great, but I felt this was quite visually bland and the regular voiceover makes it all too obvious that this is an adaptation of a novel.
Grim, joyless, dark but certainly well performed and competently brought to the screen, albeit with a bit of a tv movie feel. I reckon there is probably a more engaging way to present this material, but perhaps making it more bombastic would detract from the emotionally devastating power of the story? I think that trade off would probably be worth it to make this enjoyable to watch.