The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time ★★½

The Devil All the Time is one of those movies that actors agree to do to challenge themselves and showcase their range, at least that’s what it feels like everyone is doing here in this movie. Tom Holland is very much playing against type as Arvin Russell, and he does a pretty good job at it too, particularly with his more brutal and physically violent stunt choreography. Harry Melling and Robert Pattinson also give memorable performances (the latter largely through the accent he affects for his part) and while she doesn’t get as much screen time as I would like, Riley Keough does a great deal with her role as well. The rest of the cast are decent in their roles, but they’re either largely doing much of the same that we’ve already seen from them, have a relatively small role, or both.

This film would probably be easier to watch if its thematic core were a bit more consistent, as it seems to either warn of the dangers that come from holding on too tightly to religion, or the consequences that come from straying too far from it. The multiple storylines that intersect at various times throughout the film are loosely connected at best, making the film never feel truly cohesive as a whole. Only towards the last third or so of the film when all the plots truly start to converge does the film really kick things up a notch, allowing the tension to build towards its climax. The film is also narrated by Donald Ray Pollock, the author of the book on which it’s based, which is honestly quite distracting, as there is A LOT of narration in this film. The old film adage of “show, don’t tell” is one of the primary differences between the storytelling mediums of page and screen, and having almost constant narration makes this feel more like a book on tape than a film.

While I can understand the appeal for a lot of the actors involved to take part in this project, I struggle to understand what in particular about Pollock’s book attracted filmmakers to it. I say that having never read it, but there is clearly something in those pages that the filmmakers behind this film connected with on some level. Unfortunately, whatever it was doesn’t really translate in the final product, and what we have is a thematically muddled film with a few good performances to keep you watching until the credits roll.

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