THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME
The Devil All the Time is a psychological thriller about a boy named Arvin. Let me start again. The Devil All the Time is a psychologically scary film that makes you uncomfortable and makes you even more concerned about the state of humanity. The film depicts the life of Arvin Russell growing up in Ohio from 1945 to 1965.
The Good Parts:
- Arvin’s best day with his Dad is when his Dad, Willard Russel (Bill Skarsgård), beats the shit out of two neighbors for disrespecting his wife Charlotte (Haley Bennett, Swallow, upcoming Hillbilly Elegy). You see where this is going.
- A few people are happy in this film – but only for a short time.
- The Devil All the Time is based on a novel of the same name. The narrator throughout the entire film is the author of the book, Donald Ray Pollock. At 55-years old, this is his first novel after working a full career as a laborer and a truck driver at a paper mill in Ohio. Pollock’s voice is perfect portraying the overall atmosphere defined as “Hillbilly Gothic.”
- If you tire of the movie, just listen to the narration and the music. Audiobooks can be soothing. The narration is one of the best reasons to watch.
- The cinematography is outstanding. Most of the film happens in the 1940s and 1950s. The cinematography beautifully depicts that era. There seems to be an old car in most outdoor shots.
- The ensemble cast members are all excellent.
- Tom Holland (How I Live Now, Spider-Man series) portrays the adult Arvin Eugene Russell. He does a fine job making you like his character even though he does not have many redeeming qualities.
- Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland) is Helen, the mother of Lenora. Ms. Wasikowska is a fine actor in the film, but she is underused. She plays a meek and mild character only there briefly to move another character’s plotline along.
- This film is the most extensive role for Eliza Scanlen (Beth in Little Women) as Lenora. Eliza perfectly becomes the young, orphan girl, profoundly religious and uneducated, and abused by the righteous. Her character Lenora is the one getting the most sympathy from this viewer.
- The serial killer couple Jason Clark (First Man) & Riley Keough (Zola) are excellently disgusting, sexually evil, and as sick as they get.
- The righteous Pastor Prestin Teagardin (Robert Pattinson, Twilight, Tenet) plays a sexual deviant very well. He is passionate in prayer yet an evil and disrespectful person.
- The music accurately depicts the “Hillbilly Gothic” milieu. You hear portions of twenty-one songs during the film. I kept thinking; the music could be better, more accessible. But as the movie played, the music was also sad, scratchy, “hillbilly,” and gospel. To get a feeling of the film, click here to hear the song during the final credits. The singer, Pokey LaFarge, is the crippled Theodore in the film.
The Not as Good Parts:
- The first hour and a half (Part I & II) is the development of this sad world. The last 45 minutes gives you some joy if you find joy in revenge, corruption, and blood. The Devil All the Time is a long movie.
I did not wholly enjoy this movie the first time I viewed it. It does not make for a fun Saturday night; it is slow and dark.
The second viewing from an analysis point of view is much better. The Devil All the Time is flawless in its composition. There are four stories, all related but separate, that shift back and forth over twenty years. Each of the four storylines reach a conclusion at the end. The film spans the time from the end of WWII to the beginning of the Vietnam War.
The Devil All the Time reminds me of First Reformed with Ethan Hawke as a priest spirally down into delusions. First Reformed was nominated for an Academy Award as the best original screenplay in 2019 but did not win; Green Book won.
I expect The Devil All the Time, a psychological thriller, may have the same fate as First Reformed. Although superbly written, The Devil All the Time will not be watched by many people, but film schools will study the cinematography, dialogue, and composition of this film.