🎃🏳️🌈 Nicholas (Nic) 🏳️🌈🎃’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Devil All the Time is definitely divisive viewing. It’s not easy or pleasant by any means, and it can get dark and gritty. But as interesting as the story’s themes of faith, religion and violence were, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated by the overall impact of the film. It’s faithful to the original novel by Donald Ray Pollock, which is both good and bad, because the source material had such a gritty feel to it, yet it was messy in terms of maintaining focus on its character storylines and their connections were not entirely satisfying.
To be honest, I actually thought The Devil All The Time would be a lot darker and grittier. I mean, the bleak tone is definitely there and I could feel the Southern Gothic atmosphere coming through in its lively settings and locations, but aside from a few disturbing images and some good moments of suspense, the film left me feeling cold. And I’m not intended to get emotionally attached to any of the characters, yet I felt bored at times. What really got on my nerves was the musical score, which sounded so repetitive and annoying that it didn’t seem to fit the tone and pretty much ruined my engagement with the film. Even more annoying is the CONSTANT narration that spoonfeeds you the entire time rather than trusting you to pick up any clues from the film’s gorgeous visuals.
Even though I was frustrated with the film’s flaws, it does have a lot going for it. Antonio Campos’s direction is good for the most part, and I still found the themes interesting, there needed to be something fresh and darker in its execution. The 35mm cinematography is absolutely gorgeous and effectively traps you in the film’s harsh, bleak American setting, even though its mood can be impeded by the editing choices. And of course, the cast brought their A-games. Tom Holland’s a good actor in general, but I think his role allowed him to perform some challenging material and he pulls it off well, especially with his Southern accent, and I hope he gets more independent and darker roles in the future. Bill Skarsgård delivers a harrowing performance, and Jason Clarke is creepy as hell, but Riley Keough is damn great with the screentime she gets. Eliza Scanlen’s performance is also quietly affecting, and while others such as Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska and Harry Melling aren’t in much of the film for long, they do turn out some strong acting. The best performance, unsurprisingly, comes from Robert Pattinson, whose sinister nature and manipulative charm genuinely made me more uncomfortable than any of his other roles, and he has a scene with Tom Holland which is so suspenseful that it’s one of the more memorable moments. Pretty much the talent from the cast and crew made The Devil All the Time a worthwhile watch.
Overall, I really thought I would love this one, but I think I got my hopes up too high. It has a lot going for it, especially with its mood, atmosphere, tone and setting, and the cast is more than enough to compensate for the film’s bigger flaws, yet I was still left hoping it would be a grittier watch that relied less on its narration and more on showing and developing its characters, and in the end I found this just as OK as the source material. Still worth a watch, but can’t guarantee how good or bad it’ll be.
Plot and Characters (6/10)
Presentation and Direction (7/10)
+Strong, challenging performances
+Solid Southern Gothic setting
+Interesting themes of religion and violence
+Outstanding 35mm cinematography
+Some good suspenseful moments
-Unbalanced character storylines
-Overreliance on narration
-Repetitive musical score
-Strangely cold writing