Title: The Devil All the Time
Describe This Movie In One Repo Man Quote:
OLY: A lot of straight guys like to watch their buddies f*ck. I know I do.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Poverty sucks. Religion too. War isn't all that great either.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3.5 Joe Johnsons out of 5.
Tagline: "Some people are just born to be buried."
Better Tagline: "Technically, aren't we all?"
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Returning home after the war didn't provide the solace Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård) was hoping for, and tragedy soon sends his young son Arvin to live with the boy's grandmother and uncle. Years later, an older Arvin (Tom Holland) contends with his feelings for fellow orphan Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), who is falling under the spell of a visiting preacher (Robert Pattinson). And did we mention there's a serial killer couple (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough) floating around as well?
"Critical" Analysis: The running theme of The Devil All the Time, voiced by corrupt sheriff Lee Bodecker (a frumpy Sebastian Stan), is that there are those put on this planet for the sole purpose of dying. Grim as that is, one can't deny how fitting a sentiment that is for just about every character involved in the movie.
Fortunately (?), Donald Ray Pollock's original Southern (Ohio) Gothic novel is somewhat lacking in sympathetic figures. Traumatized veteran Willard tries sticking to the righteous path but ultimately succumbs to his demons, while Arvin weathers tragedy after tragedy with grim stoicism, only lashing out when circumstance gives him a target for his anguish.
And owing to either the time period or Pollock's own mindset, the women in the film don't fare well. In short, they're all doomed. This relegates half the cast to serving as plot propulsion devices (the ones not playing noble matriarchs, that is).
On the flip side, this leads to some pretty satisfying violence. Pollock's novel put some people off with its depictions of rural vengeance, but if you're going to lace your yarn with instances of generational violence, there are worse people to watch mete it out that Holland and Skarsgård.
Director Antonio Campos (who co-adapted the novel with his brother Paulo) lets events unfold in their own time, introducing certain players only to leave them behind for while (Keogh and Clarke's murderous couple, for example) while jumping back and forth in time to arrange the pieces.
This languorous pace can be frustrating at first, especially for those who might be wondering why Holland - featured so prominently in the marketing - takes almost an hour to show up. Pollock's voice-overs (the author also serves as narrator) border on intrusive, and would've been just effective if they were only used in the opening scene. Unfortunately, they continue throughout with the insistence of Harrison Ford's in Blade Runner, and are roughly as illuminating.
There's lots of rustic scenery chewing, though. Pattinson and Harry "Dudley Dursley" Melling sink their teeth into preacher roles that are as divergent in purpose as they are deranged, with the haunted Skarsgård and an odious Clarke thrown in for good measure.
If nothing else, this was a great opportunity for a bunch of European/Australian actors to practice their Appalachian accents.
The idea that escape from the savage, backwards towns of West Virginia/southern Ohio isn't a new one, but The Devil All the Time rides it out on the back of some stand-out performances and the authenticity Gomez brings to the story. It's not what you'd call an uplifting tale, but there's redemption to be had, and the possibility of hope for some.
Right now, we'll take what we can get.
The Devil All the Time is now in select theaters and streaming on Netflix.
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