“The Devil All the Time,” directed by Antonio Campos, is a Netflix original film released on Sept. 16. This film stars Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård and Robert Pattinson with Riley Keogh in a supporting role. Based on a novel of the same name written by Donald Ray Pollock, “The Devil All the Time” follows the life of Arvin Russell (Holland) as he attempts to defend his loved ones from a town of sinister, corrupt characters.
The entirety of the film is narrated by Pollock, which the narrative relies heavily upon. Without Pollock’s in-depth narrations, the film would be unstructured and out of context. The film desperately needed more dialogue; the detailed narration completely overwhelmed all aspects of the film. This film presented a fantastic cast, and they could have been fantastic, but Pollock’s narration prohibits these actors from reaching their full potential. On top of this artificial way of storytelling, the film creates multiple storylines that often confuses the film’s central focus. The introduction of several different character arcs attempts to spread the story out but overly broadens perspective despite its intention to highlight the ultimate message of “the devil is in everyone.”
The film’s plot is directly founded upon Christianity and uses its religious themes to highlight both the good and bad sides of faith, but specifically the bad. The film lives up to its name and centers itself around those that abuse faith in unhealthy ways. Campos fixes death as the central theme throughout the film and he never deviates. Each of the characters encounter death in some aspect, which eventually allows the film to come full circle. Leading up to the ending, the film’s pace is a bit slower, making the scenes mesh together practically, while prolonging the story.
Each of the actors does a great job conveying the horrible side of what people are capable of, which makes the film uncomfortable for Netflix's target audience. Pattinson’s take on a corrupt preacher and Sebastian Stan’s presentation of a dishonest cop only scratch the surface of the film’s gruesome and dark aspects. One factor worth noting is Holland’s acting performance and ability to effectively carry his character through the situations he is presented. As Russell follows the winding trail of corruption, Holland maintains his natural charisma, while adding depth to becoming the matured Russell. Although Holland is known for his role as Spiderman in the Marvel films, “The Devil All the Time” brought out a more serious side of Holland’s acting and this is a refreshing role to see him take on.
“The Devil All the Time” is a film that takes an obscene and gloomy approach to humanity and this is proved in the story Campos is adapting. Formed around sin, the storyline set the film up for greatness, and it was capable of having real potential but was ultimately diminished from the lack of depth.