With a runtime of over two hours, The Devil All the Time seems like a tedious and boring affair. However, it only seems that way because when it was over I wanted more! I wanted to know what’s gonna happen in the following years and how the situation our characters find themselves in is going to go from bad to worse. Based on the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock, who also narrated the movie, this is a devilishly subversive movie with a distinct black humor vibe. It touches on all the American “untouchables” like religion, small-town communities and the fucking fifties. A time when everything was so fucking great.
You know, recently I watched a documentary I’ll Be Gone in the Dark about a serial killer who operated during the seventies. One of the things that stuck with me was the number of unreported rapes during that time. Devil only knows what was going on in the forties and fifties. And although the phenomenon of a serial killer in the USA started in the late sixties, the seeds were sown much earlier.
Today boomers are constantly citing this period of time as the “good old days” and fondly recalling memories from that time. I bet you that these are the members of the now-vanished middle class who lived in cities and have no idea about life in the smaller communities. Not that things are much different now. Just check out another awesome documentary Tread and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
I guess now it’s too late to say but I digress. One of the first things you’ll notice about The Devil All the Time is the stellar cinematography. It reminded me of the saturated and dark style often seen in Denis Villeneuve’s movies. Perhaps his thriller Prisoners from 2013 would be the best match for this movie. To accompany these magnificent visuals we have a phenomenal script with clever and realistic dialogues.
The Devil All the Time is one of those movies where all the stars aligned and I can’t find a single to thing to complain about. It accomplished what it set out to do with ease and precision. The story may seem a bit messy and meandering but those turns were necessary to create a well-rounded slice of raw life in the fifties.
Meet Willard Russell, a young man on his way home after being on the front for quite some time. While passing through Ohio, he stops in a small diner and falls in love with Charlotte, a waitress working there. They soon get married and start a family. A family that seems to be haunted by the Devil. Haunted by the Devil all the time.
I won’t bother you with my praises of the all-star cast, I would just to single out Michael Banks Repeta as young Arvin. The kid was simply phenomenal and I can’t wait to see him in more movies. Or television shows, since he already appeared in delightfully dark and foreboding Lovecraft Country. With a well-fleshed out characters with very distinctive and dark destinies every actor had a lot of great material to work with. We follow so many different characters connected by trauma, violence or just plain bad luck that it would be easy to lose the thread because of bad performances.
The Devil All the Time explores religion and how it works, let’s say, in practice. Never mind all those hidden messages or passages and stories that are meant not to be taken literally. We are talking about religion and people’s system of values and beliefs in the rawest possible sense. The simplicity and straightforwardness of stories we will have the honor of seeing is incredibly powerful and moving.
They don’t force certain opinions or conclusions, unfolding naturally. They matter-of-factly present the situation leaving the viewer to draw his own conclusions. Now I would love to draw those conclusions for you here, but I think it would be better if you saw the movie without me trying to tell you what to think. It’s definitely worth watching and it has a huge Rabbit Reviews Recommends sticker!
Director: Antonio Campos
Writers: Antonio Campos, Paulo Campos, Donald Ray Pollock
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, Tom Holland, Michael Banks Repeta, Donald Ray Pollock, Haley Bennett, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Robert Pattinson
Fun Facts: Crucifixion is a recurring theme throughout the movie. There is a picture of jesus on the cross hanging on the wall in Arvin’s room. Arvin, Willard and Reverend Teagardin all injure their hands, recalling the stigmata. And while it wasn’t common, japanese soldiers really did crucify prisoners of war during World War II.