The Devil All the Time centres around a number of characters, beginning with Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård – IT Chapter One, IT Chapter Two), who tells his son, Arvin (Michael Banks Repeta), how he “fought the devil all the time“.
Willard, his wife, former waitress Charlotte (Haley Bennett – The Magnificent Seven (2016)), and Arvin have been living there in Knockemstiff, Ohio, for nine years up until 1957, yet are still considered outsiders, with this town being one where everyone’s related in one way or another, so, rather incestuous, then.
If there’s one thing this film WILL win an award for at the Oscars, it’s “most number of characters crammed into a film with not as much to do as I would’ve liked”, and we start with Willard who has haunting memories after coming back from the war, not least involving a particular soldier, Miller Jones, and – like Fight Club – he’s not going to talk about it.
While he’s finding happiness with Charlotte, though, Carl (Jason Clarke – Terminator: Genisys…yes, I’m not letting him off the hook with that one, even now) meets another one, Sandy (Riley Keough – The House That Jack Built), and they’re clearly well-suited for each other as they become serial killers and they call their victims “the models”, taking pictures of them as they go about their pursuits.
All that said, Willard’s mum wanted him to marry Helen Hatton (Mia Wasikowska – The Double), but she has another path to furrow in the form of the first of two sibling preachers, Roy (Harry Melling) and brother Theodore (Pokey LaFarge) in what is a very God-fearing town and between the pair, we learn quickly just how mad heavily religious people are.
Fast-forward to 1965 and we’re at Arvin’s 17th birthday, now played by Tom Holland (Avengers: Endgame). At this point, this is the ‘present day’ and it goes on from there as life takes him to be staying with grandma Emma (Kristin Griffith) and Uncle Earskell (David Atkinson), along with similarly-aged Lenora (Eliza Scanlen). Ms Scanlen is an absolute dead ringer for a young Sissy Spacek, so if they ever make a film about her life, you know where to look… but then I told Hollywood back in 2015 that if they ever made a film with a young Harrison Ford-lookalike, they should get Anthony Ingruber from The Age of Adaline…. but no, they got some other clown for 2018’s Solo who looks and acts nothing like Harrison Ford)
Still looking for more characters? Preacher Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson – Tenet) comes into the picture also spewing his nonsense, whilst showing he’s rather an old letch on young women. Finally… I think, there’s Holland’s fellow Marvel actor Sebastian Stan as an unrecognisable cop, Lee Bodecker, and his story will be told as you watch it but, I can’t really go into much other detail because, y’know, spoilers.
One big problem with this film is that the plot shifts and changes every five minutes, giving us several stories going on here. I figured they must have to come together at some point, but then they just quickly complete one story and move on to another. So, it’s an interesting film to watch (to a point), but don’t expect all the pieces to fit in any way.
In fact, it feels like three series of a Netflix drama all hacked up and crammed into 138 minutes without any real regard to continuity and how it might form a coherent movie.
We could’ve spent a lot more time in each of the different settings and got to know the characters much better, but all too often, they come and go, and you wonder who on Earth sanctioned the brevity! The film was spawned from a novel, so maybe that has a lot more to it that’s been left out, here.
The Devil All The Time will no doubt be a big hit because Marvel fans are starved of seeing Spidey and the Winter Soldier on the big screen at the moment, but to me it’s “Too Many Characters All The Time”.
Then again, how about a new Netflix film where Spider-Man, The Winter Soldier and Batman join forces? Who wouldn’t pay to see a Marvel/DC crossover? It’ll happen when they run out of ideas… again 😉
Check out the trailer below:
Running time: 138 minutes
Release date: September 16th 2020
Format: 2.39:1 (Super 35)
Director: Antonio Campos
Producers: Max Born, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker, Randall Poster
Screenplay: Antonio Campos, Paulo Campos
Novel: Donald Ray Pollock
Music: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans
Preston Teagardin: Robert Pattinson
Arvin Russell: Tom Holland
Willard Russell: Bill Skarsgård
Charlotte Russell: Haley Bennett
Sandy Henderson: Riley Keough
Roy Laferty: Harry Melling
Lee Bodecker: Sebastian Stan
Helen Hatton: Mia Wasikowska
Lenora Laferty: Eliza Scanlen
Carl Henderson: Jason Clarke
Tater Brown: Douglas Hodge
Tommy Matson: Drew Starkey
Susie Cox: Given Sharp
Cynthia Teagardin: Lucy Faust
Pamela Sue Reaster: Abby Glover
Theodore: Pokey LaFarge
Emma: Kristin Griffith
Earskell: David Atkinson
Deputy Howser: Eric Mendenhall
Narrator: Donald Ray Pollock (voice)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.