The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time ★★½

[ It would be undoubtedly annoying if I shared all my thoughts on this movie, so the following is my absolutely essential review of the thoughts I think are most important to share. ]

I’m not one to check something out because it’s popular. That’s not me being some hipster who wouldn’t dare look into anything mainstream: it’s just a fact. Popularity doesn’t intrigue me that much. Neither do Netflix originals, but when I learned of this movie, and all it’s lofty and depressing ambition that’s managed to seemingly capture the most minds of any movie this month, I was curious to see what kind of impression it was leaving on such a big portion of the world. 

It was disappointing. Not just in the movie’s quality—I’ll get to that—but in the aforementioned impression. The movie interestingly sheds light on Man’s craving, a craving for something greater, which is both appropriately and inappropriately referred to as God in this film. Devil All the Time is quite obsessed with fueling all of its trauma with religion that occupies so many small towns as the ones depicted here. It’s an interesting concept, but what’s the takeaway? 

So many times the movie contains a situation where it appears God has “failed” the characters, by the standard of the film’s philosophy. The problem with its execution is it’s really shallow, nitpicking little Biblical concepts and neglecting nearly all the others. This practice is as futile as condemning an entire meal because of the harm of eating its raw ingredients. Roy (the pastor at the beginning) tries employing Philippians 4:13, that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength, without remembering Paul’s dependence was on Christ to make him do God’s work, and all of His things, and be humble... not commit the atrocities Roy does. He also forgot not to put the Lord to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16, Matthew 4:7, Luke 4:12). Another example is when Willard prays with Arvin, the two of them channeling the promises of Matthew 7:7 to deliver Charlotte... while forgetting: that God has vastly different thought processes than us (Isaiah 55:9) and that there is a time for death, and God is concerned with our mourning (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2), it is possible for good to happen in spite of bad (Romans 8:28) and that with faith in God, death does not have the final say (Romans 8:38-39). God must be viewed holistically.

I do not expect every movie that deals with religion and faith to do it exactly “accurately” or anything. That is unrealistic and unfair. I’m also not going to be ignorant enough to say religion can’t go wrong (I’m aware of real people like these characters) but it is a huge hope of mine that imperfect humans are not an argumentative device to turn people away from the idea of a perfect God, because this film depicts religious manipulation, not implication

With a slow burn tone not unlike No Country for Old Men, Three Billboards, and other dramatic juggernauts, I did like what this film was reaching for. However, the pacing felt all discombobulated to me. It either needed to be a half hour shorter or a half hour longer, as the past sequences fit awkwardly into the runtime and some key parts (like one character’s week-long observation of another’s deeds) were slighted. I’m a fan of how Robert Pattinson decided in recent years that he would just never miss ever. He is phenomenal. I was also admittedly prepared to call Tom Holland’s performance overhyped but this was never the case. He was brilliant. 

Unfortunately, other factors like a really noticeable score*, inconsistently realistic lighting, and unnecessary narration dragged the movie down as well, in addition to all the religious straw men that made me think the movie was challenging a scarecrow rather than a crucifix (apologies if that’s corny). The manipulation of religious pathos here is too common to call an “exception rather than the rule,” but it is also too divergent from the truth of God’s character for it to have a message that could be taken without any knowledge of faith as well as with it. 

This ended up still being a long review and I’m sorry about that. I really appreciate if this was read all the way through... and I JUST completed this movie, so please: if I misinterpreted it, tell me by all means. I’d sincerely love to hear another opinion. 

*Not in a good way: at one point I had to pause the movie to make sure I wasn’t inadvertently listening to some other music I forgot I put on.

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