Today i’m going to be reviewing the devil all the time. This film has an incredibly dark story, but it is absolutely captivating. So hold your crucifix and hear me out.
The Devil All the Time Film Cast
Stars: Donald Ray Pollock, Bill Skarsgård, Tom Holland
The Devil All the Time Film Review And My Opinion
The plot of the devil all the time is quite difficult to explain concisely because it involves so many subplots. But i think the imdb description sums it up quite nicely.
Sinister characters converge around a young man devoted to protecting his family in a post-war backwoods town teeming with corruption and brutality. Let me say first off that i enjoyed this film immensely. The characters may be terrible human beings but the storytelling was so well done that i was enthralled by the despicable events from start to finish.
If you’ve watched my other reviews you’ll know that i take runtime very seriously. I don’t like films being over two hours without a concrete reason. At 18 minutes over the two hour mark this film was treading dangerous waters. It successfully utilized every minute to further the story.
This is a big tick in my books because there is nothing worse for me than feeling like my time has been wasted by ill-paced content. I think what this film does very well is making sure that the more sickening aspects of the plot are interwoven with the rest via compelling dialogue imagery and repetition. For example one of the ways in which the main theme of religion and the perversion of it comes out is through the image of Jesus on the cross.
This holy image becomes especially important for the characters of Willard and Arvin, to whom it becomes a symbol of death grief and a loss of control. We see it multiple times during the film in different forms and all these moments build on each other to create a constant sense of unease.
On the theme of religion i find it quite boring when this topic is portrayed in a singular way via one character’s either positive or negative experience. Here it feels like every character has their own unique relationship with religion. The reverend and Roy have a god complex and delusions of grandeur.
Emma and Lenora base their whole life around this idea of fate but suffer physically and mentally when things don’t go to plan. Then there’s Carl, who with the help of sandy devotes his whole life to his own perverse religion, that of photography seemingly not fearful of god at all.
A lot of enjoyment of this film comes from guessing and discovering how the different characters timelines. Tone wise it definitely feels like a modern western such as no country for old men, hello high water, slow west and i would argue Sicario. As well as being set in the southern us states they all have this laid back contemplative energy and slowly rising cadence as the tension develops. As is the case with many of these examples the devil all the time is based on a book. It is written by Donald Ray Pollock who fun fact is the narrator in the film. I have read quite a few comments from people saying that it was the narration that ruined the film for them. I’m inclined to agree somewhat in terms of it not being absolutely necessary to them.
I personally enjoyed it as a storytelling device. This film doesn’t really have anything to say. It doesn’t have a grand message for you to take away with you. It doesn’t ask you to see the bigger picture. It sets up this location of knock them stiff whereas the narrator says most people are in some way related to one another.
It then tells the story of a group of people. These people are bad don’t do as they do seems pretty obvious. So i wouldn’t call that a message. Instead i consider this just a good story that poses interesting moral dilemmas.
Narration is a classic way of telling a story. Plenty of rom-coms such as Bridget jones’s diary use it effectively. With this in mind i really liked the juxtaposition of having this fairy tale-like voice with such a sickening story. While we’re on the topic of voices many of the main actors in this film are European. Indeed many of them are British and yet they managed to pull off this southern accent.
I think perhaps to a trained ear there will be some discrepancies. But i certainly didn’t notice anything weird that put me off the action. In terms of cast this film is a supreme collection of talent, as each character is introduced no matter how long they’re on screen for they absolutely knock it out of the park. My personal favorites were bill Skarsgard, Eliza Scanlon and Robert Pattinson.
I have adored Skarsgard since seeing him in it where he absolutely carried the horror. Here he is much more subtle but delivers so much information through his body language. The same goes for Scanlan and Pattinson who are highly effective as opposites of one another. I have had trouble disassociating Pattinson from Edward Cullen since fingerling over him and Kristen Stewart when i was a teenager. He could not be further removed from that here.
Every gesture every pause that bellowing delusions line that gets thrown around every video about this film, absolutely came together for what is a very unique take on the preacher character. The only issue i had with this film, the only thing that stuck out was the mumbling. The sound design was all together fine there weren’t any distracting c noises Nolan. However the southern accent is so thick that whenever the dialogue got quieter i struggled to catch everything.
It’s a shame because the dialogue was fantastic, with so many contrasts made between what the characters do versus what they say. There were breath taking scenes such as the reverend and Arvin scene in the church where the dialogue was absolutely on point. It was in those scenes as well that the beauty of the cinematography and the well-paced editing really shone through.
The camera always felt right respective to what we were looking at. There were close-ups of minute facial features and reactions during monologues. There were cuts to wide often where we see the backs of characters, just to really put the action into context. Something terrible happens or is happening and we see the space, we see the environment that envelops this story.
I know i am talking rather poetically about this film. But i am just happy that i watched it, because it has been a while. Since i have seen such a good thriller that absolutely utilizes every technical aspect to better the story, without having something stupid to spoil the tension.
In my review of unhinged, i talked about how surprisingly great that film was. It was so unforgivingly tense. But that was very much an action a lot of its effectiveness was, down to the shorter run time, fast-paced driving sequences, and ridiculous premise. What’s more difficult is to create a successful thriller that can sustain a quieter permeating uneasiness throughout. The devil all the time does this beautifully.