The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time ★★★½

It's good to see the return of filmmaker Antonio Campos to the feature film format after loitering around the past few years doing television work since his fascinating drama Christine, a biographical film on the television newsreader Christine Chubbuck, who gained infamous distinction for committing suicide during a live television broadcast; The Devil All the Time is narratively precipitated by a comparably disturbed individual.

Opening during the closing stages of WWII, it observes Marine Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård) becoming traumatised profoundly by the conflict before jumping ahead to the bulk of the story involving the forgathering of ominous personalities assembling around Arvin Russell, Willard’s son, who becomes committed to conserving indoctrinated ideals within the town as it gradually becomes congested with heartlessness and criminality. 

It’s a cumbersome narrative which stretches across two decades preceding the conflict in Vietnam; however, the narration by Donald Ray Pollock, author of the source novel, manages to just about conserve its elements in principally remaining together. 

There's a degree of pitch-black satire penetrating many of the threads as the film principally ordains itself with the presence of God sinisterly contrasted with inferences of non-theism, and the question of religion additionally broadly affixes itself as the governing aspect for its characters as they acknowledge and contend with the miscellaneous crosses they all have to bear. 

Its narrative is benefited by an engagingly subtle score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans together with some enchanting use of music from the era, and even though there's a singular beauty in many of the director's images, it's the performances which ultimately stand as the high point of the film. However, as its premise intertwines with platitudes contemplating the misuse of power and themes of deterioration to formulate a southern gothic melodrama; it ultimately comes across in neglecting in attaining any conclusions beyond some opaqueness in morality.

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