Two Cineasts’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film reviews in 22 sentences (or less)
Today: The Devil All the Time
"Some people were born just so they could be buried."
Hi everybody, Netflix films show off with high quality cinematography and deliver star assembles pretty regularly so the meandering crime thriller "The Devil All the Time" is no exception and knows how to shine across the board with technically impressive, lingering camera work and a soft score paired with brute tones of violence. The stellar cast is clearly the first reason to sit down for two and a half hours, joining various families impacted by murder and tragedy. And the performances can absolutely keep up with the big names this flick comes up with. Holland surprises the most, as we haven't seen anything from him that comes close to this role, besides Pattinson, Harry Melling and Bill Skarsgård scintillate again in more than fascinating parts somewhere between good, bad and ugly. After these famous cast list got your attention and hooked you into the film you will realize that the films overall theme is truly refreshing and really doesn't look away when depicting religiousness in its most fanatic features. Blind faith can trap people in sinful and dark chambers from which they only find out responding to violence with more violence. Throughout the running time every major character makes some decisions based on their religious beliefs - mostly it ends on terrible paths - and it's the topic that links every, at first seemingly not connected, storyline. But the balance between these numerous plot strings fails to be consistent enough. New characters gushes from every corner and some disappear just as quickly. It's not hard to keep track of these various stories jumping sometimes even in time, and director Antonio Campos offers every character an equally fair share of time to develop, giving us an opportunity to understand the motivations behind them, but the focus of the main story is pulled away from the sheer amount of subplots, some important, some not (a little bit like these long sentences). I can really appreciate this ambitious, honest drama, but don't get the feeling out of my head that "The Devil All the Time" would have been way better as some sort of mini series, or an epic with even more length, but also more time to develop the high number of characters and their respective story arcs. In this form of a 2 1/2 hour movie there's too much time wasted on characters who barely have an impact on the protagonist, the main message or narrative. Some figures plainly function as mere plot devices to bring us to the following chapter and they only kill targets to get our attention and underline the bold and audacious narrative of religious fanatics with simply bringing up a lot of different examples. It's like the director wanted to tell us a story of a traumatized child and the sinister world around him with showing us and him that nearly every person has a more than mean streak. By the end some figures have in retrospect almost none impact of the story and more importantly on you. What is no major obstacle for an action movie gets bigger when drawing a character study with characters that plainly never left the status of being one dimensional. In it's core "The Devil All the Time" is a story of father's and son's and the film suggests what early traumata can do to a kids mind, but also to a fully grown man and how it affects parental education over generations (if you're interested in that topic I can only recommend you to read "The Forgotten Generation – The War Children Break their Silence" and similar books also about the grandchildren of war).
"It wasn't that bad, Mama."
(Willard Russell about his experience in the War)
You can clearly get a taste of what must have happened to the other characters as kids and to their parents on the other hand. Unfortunately the film only scraps on the utter surface of such deep themes. At the end has this atmospheric, bleak and brutal soaked nightmare a harrowing subject, tremendous performances, but from time to time with poor characterization. The one "character" who grows dear to your heart is the narrator who raises some kind of sympathetic feelings for the voice without a face, and leads the audience through the entire film. I definitely recommend to watch "The Devil All the Time", but I for my part would watch "Silence" or "Mother!" rather once more than this newest Netflix output for the second time.
"What Sandy didn't understand was that to his way of thinking, this was the one true religion. Only in the presence of death, could he feel the presence of something like God. That sick fuck."