The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time ★★★★★

Skin and flesh decay but bones remain long after the sins are forgiven and promise that our past will never be forgotten.

It's difficult to discuss this film without revealing spoilers considering its mosaic structure but with a five star rating I will do my best to explain what I loved about it. I am very eager to see the incoming reviews this will provoke from our community: I imagine its novelistic screenplay will contribute to a divisive reaction. In short, I loved it, and promise a future review that will dive deep into all the gut-wrenching scenes that have not left my mind.

Whether it's my adoration for the cast, my love for films that shine a light on the harshest consequences of humanity, or my own opinion on religion, something about The Devil All The Time left me speechless and hollow. I did not watch the trailer or read the book and consequently knew very little prior to its release, so while I'm not sure what I expected, it certainly wasn't what I got. This is serious, deadly so, and albeit not necessarily a unique or refreshing idea yet one that certainly embraces its dark setting in a way that enamored me. One thing is for sure: if Tom Holland was desperate to do away with his family friendly superhero typecasting, he picked the right script, playing a damaged soul describing graphic acts that I never expected to hear from Peter Parker himself. Be reassured that he nails the role.

As does all the cast, an interesting concoction of several non-American actors putting on uncomfortably slimy accents (I promise, you are not prepared for the starkness of Robert Pattinson's voice in this film, one that pairs nicely with an Oscar-worthy performance despite such limited screentime) and dialogue that feels dramatic but never soapy. I saw a few reviews that complained about the lack of humour and I question such a stance, much like I question all the unnecessarily scathing negative reviews I have read, considering the harrowing subject matter. The film addresses religious fanaticism, emotional manipulation and abuse, murder, self-harm, and more; it is not a story where humour ought to be present.

With deranged characters, gore, and constant psychological tension, it comes as no surprise that I loved every minute of this story. Yet I must address my own biases, acknowledging that I am a person who is wholly committed to my God but rejects the toxic institutionalized religion that has plagued my connection with my maker in recent years, and admit that I felt a deep personal connection between this film's themes and my own. As previously mentioned it is perhaps nothing new but it was timely in its accessibility to myself and I hung on to every word.

It would be unfair to fail to mention the stunning beauty of the film. Every shot is useful yet beautiful, enhanced by a gorgeous score, and the story itself is neatly coupled with a backdrop of the ever-looming Vietnam War. I never knew quite where the story was headed, especially with its Tarantino-esque approach towards its timeline, which thankfully added only intrigue rather than frustration. Each character has a place, regardless of how short-lived it may be, and contributes to a climatic explosion that satisfies two hours of uncertainty, ending with a beautifully peaceful final shot.

The sins of the father are carried on to the son, the burden of a religion doomed to curse those who follow it blindly, the hunger of the powerful destined to kill the weak. Yet despite its bloody and depressing exterior, the film critiques the man rather than the god, ending with a glimmer of hope that sometimes people leave this world having made right with their creator. Such is the blessing and the curse of faith: it can bring peace, or it can bring pain, but the end result of the coffin remains.

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