The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time ★★½

I mentioned the other day that I think Antonio Campos has a truly phenomenal film in him somewhere, but this ain’t it, as much as I wanted it to be. Several years ago when it was announced that Campos and Pattinson were teaming up, I immediately picked up this novel and sped through it to imagine what they would create together, and I had a hard time seeing how Campos could work Donald Ray Pollock’s immense plethora of characters and timelines into a single narrative film, and the result is… not very well. This movie is shot in the foot from the start by simply being a movie rather than something like a miniseries, where it would work best (or, you know, a novel).

There’s simply too many characters and too many details that need to be conveyed, so what happens instead in the film is that everyone is morseled down into their most basic elements, and Pollock himself comes in to give some of the worst voiceover exposition we’ve seen in a long time. When you need the author of the book to spell things out to the viewer because you can’t convey it effectively on the screen, that’s a problem. The cast all does quite well. Tom Holland, who I initially thought to be severely miscast, gives an excellent performance, and Pattinson no doubt steals the show as a dastardly preacher. But then you waste someone like Mia Wasikowska because the movie doesn’t have time for how many characters it’s trying to pack in here, and what it haphazardly tries to connect its many disparate plot threads it just doesn’t feel earned.

There are great themes about generational violence, how we inherit the sins of our parents, how the lost and vulnerable are the ones easiest to exploit and be abused and forgotten, but a lot of it gets lost under what is essentially a dreary mood piece that drips brood without nearly enough substance. I would say that this is the kind of movie that goes out of its way to paint women as victims or whores (or sometimes both), but it has just as much nuance in its portrayal of men as violent rapists or violent heroes. Almost feels like a parody at times with how hard it’s trying to be “dark”. I actually didn’t mind my time watching it, but it’s astonishing how quickly it’s leaving my memory after everything I invested in it.

Added to 2020 ranked
Added to Ranked: Antonio Campos
Added to Ranked: Netflix original films

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