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‘The Devil All The Time’ is Gritty and Bleak

Gritty and bleak are the best words to describe this film. There’s nothing happy about it.

The Devil All the Time (2020)

2.5 / 5
3 / 5

Gritty and bleak are the best words to describe this film. There’s nothing happy about it — I can’t recall a time that someone smiled or laughed, but that’s fine. Sometimes you have a twisted desire to find entertainment in a movie that doesn’t provide any semblance of positivity.

The Devil All the Time is based on the book of the same name, and is about a group of troubled and strange people living in rural Ohio and West Virginia. The film begins after World War II and ends sometime in the 1960s. While we’re in the perspective of several characters, Arvin (Tom Holland) is the main focus.

It’s neat to see Holland take on a more serious role. I’m so used to him as Spider-Man that this was quite a surprise. Arvin’s an extremely flawed and troubled character, but you can sympathize with him (at least I did). He was wronged, so he takes matters into his own hands in violent ways. His story’s the most compelling, and I’d like to see Holland in more dramatic roles.

Another surprise was Robert Pattinson as a corrupt preacher named Reverend Preston Teagardin. Pattinson’s come a long way since Twilight, and it definitely shows in this performance. He’s manipulative, cruel, and steals every scene he’s in. The only downside is that he’s not in the film enough.

The Devil All the Time is filled with an all-star cast. We have Bill Skarsgard, Sebastian Stan, Riley Keough, Jason Clark, and others. Everyone plays their part well, and their performances are what carried the film. Although it’s kind of jarring when certain characters don’t age despite the movie taking place over several years.

As far as diversity goes…there’s not much of it. It’s primarily a white cast, and a majority of the female characters aren’t exactly treated well. On the other hand, no one is treated fairly in this movie. As mentioned before, it’s gritty, bleak, and doesn’t have an inkling of hope for anyone. Everyone is absolutely miserable.

Apparently the book is much bleaker, but to save my sanity, I’ll likely not read it. Speaking of the book, the author, Donald Pollock, narrates the film. That’s a neat detail, but it can sometimes be distracting as the narration falls into obvious observations. We don’t need to be told what’s going on, we can interpret characters’ thoughts ourselves.

Another issue is that, to me, the film seemed shorter than it should’ve been. Despite it being over two hours long, I felt that not every character’s story was explored thoroughly. Sure, there’s the book, and I’m certain everything’s expanded upon there, but books and movies should be treated as their own entities. Some of the characters weren’t fleshed out enough, so I couldn’t get as attached as I wanted to. I think the story would’ve benefited more if it were a miniseries instead; that way, we would spend more time with the characters and get the payoff that was intended.

Overall, The Devil All The Time was an interesting experience. It’s not a film that I would return for a rewatch; I fear my mental state wouldn’t handle it if I did. The film is definitely not for everyone, and I wouldn’t really recommend it unless you’ve extinguished all emotions.