Rafael Jovine’s review published on Letterboxd:
Well.... talking about a mixed movie. Seriously, reading through the reviews I couldn't help but laughing at some of the stuff being said -not in a mean way so please don't get offended- but more because of the irony of it all. One example is how many called this a dark film, but not brutally enough. Then you got other people saying it was brutal, but not dark enough. I mean, talking about a movie that heavily depends on people's perspective and personal tastes.
But yeah, like many of those films, I feel the urge to go deeper in explaining my reasoning, which means I might get into some spoilers. So if you haven't seen it know this: as I see this, more than just a film about religion, this is an epic family bleak drama with some almost Shakespearan tragedy involved. Its like much compressed, Ken Follett's family epic with heavy bleak overtones that brilliantly call back to great directors such as Scorsese and The Coen Brothers with some Frialty thrown in the mix.
The way the camera is used and always movie, with the cinematography simply hard to ignore, captures the raw and violent nature of a flick that requires patiences but if you stay with it, it will pay off.
Performances are outstanding. From the little screen time to the largest of them all, they all seem a purpose and they were brilliantly at it. Whether some wish there was more, again, that really depends on everyone's personal taste, but for me on the greater scale of everything as I will explain, it was amazing. Reckless Pattinson beautifully captured the manipulative and charming nature of the many crooks like him. Tom Holland in a career-defining performance disappeared into this role. Even the corrupted sheriff as played by Sebastian Stan did really good with his little screen time.
All in all, while there's a major chance you will fall into the average rating, that doesn't mean you can skip it, because this is one you have to witness yourself. You need to be the judge, don't let the others do it for you. So go and watch it!
...now on to the deep stuff!
Generation Ties Shall Bring Us Death
Many of the complaints I've seen people having with this film is the whole Bill's storyline should have removed so the "most interesting" could have been fleshed out.
That's a major mistake.
Don't get me wrong, his whole thing was the least exciting thing. But seeing this whole movie as a building for a sec, his story was the foundation where everything shall spun off. I don't know it goes when building something in your country, but normally here they dig a huuuuge whole in the ground and they place some irons and stuff, that all serves as the base that will sustain the entire building. Its boring, its overlong, but its indispensable if you want your beautiful building doesn't crash into the ground. The same goes for this story. They say it should have been trimmed down... but where? Everything that happens its setting up something. I am genuinely going through the movie and I can't think of a time that could have been reduced or taken out without ruining the themes, messing up with the character's developments as the film progresses, etc.
Also people been complaining about the female characters, I know this might triggered some people - but besides Riley Keough's Sandy, the rest of the woman were basically a device to push the story towards the final goal. Again, this was never a story about them, but this is almost like a father-son movie, meaning Bill and Tom were always the focus. Everything around them its simply world building.
The Danger of being a religious Karen and a Kenneth Copeland buddy
While family ties and the generational vicious circle one may get trapped into its the core element of the whole film, this is all caught into a heavily religious background. For me the heavy focus on an unhealthy form of Christianity and fanatism to the core was not only meant to serve as a parallel to the decay of this family, but also US as a whole. Ending the 50s and entering the 60s, as Vietnam was starting to develop and taking place respectively, the so called Christian US was crashing down onto the weight of a fake faith where conveniences was it all, and truth was rejected.
The fact Roy Laferty's only daughter fell into the hand of his likely predecessor, in the form of Preston Teagardin isn't a coincidence. Lenora's death intentional/accidental death serves as a odd and tragic reminder of the same luck her fathers went through - of course, in a less gory way.
Also its clear Preston is a consequence of Roy. Once the church opened the doors to this fraud, it basically opened the gates to hell, plus without telling us into our face, it told us what type of pastor was the uncle. And anyone can tell you, one doesn't fall so low into their faith that quick, its something that harvest through the years. Again, just like the rapid decaying nature of the Christian faith in America.
By the way, as a side note, what are the odds I was asking for Harry Melling to act more over the top on The Old Guard and I got it two days later? Is Netflix spying on me??? O.o
60s: The era of madness
Yeah, you may argue it was more on the late 60s and 70s were the rise of notable serial killers starting to become a serious issue in America, but maybe Campos forgot about that little detail.
Nonetheless, I think this is where the Natural Born Killers come in. People claim you don't know anything about Clarke, and I guess that was the intention. He isn't meant to be a person, he doesn't even play his role as a person, but rather like a force of evil. He stands as an omen of what was to come, in many ways, product of, yes, thats the word again "decay" of the country. Sandy involvement is more a sign of how the lack of any healthy family home can break you, which was the case of her and Lee. Her only moral compass was a corrupted cop, what else did you expect? She's a byproduct of a system, an institution that's crashing down over the weight of bad decisions that cursed us and take us into paths we don't wish to go.
The world has gone so mad and turned so evil, by the end of the day, as Tom's Arvin was falling asleep, you couldn't help but to wonder if that dude he was in the car was going to kill him. And that fear was well-represented by Carl.