What happens when you put Spider-Man, Pennywise, the Winter Soldier, John Connor, and Batman in a movie? Well, you get The Devil all the Time. Directed by Antonio Campas, the plot of this Netflix produced film is tough to explain without giving away major plot points. So let me just shamelessly paste the ambiguous synopsis given by IMDB – “Sinister characters converge around a young man devoted to protecting those he loves in a postwar backwoods town teeming with corruption and brutality”. The cast of this film includes Tom Holland (who plays this young man), Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan & Bill Skarsgård, among many other talented actors.
Lets start off with the cast. This is one of the best lineup of actors that I’ve seen in a movie for a while. Every cast member brought their A-game in bringing their characters to life. The film is also set in the decade preceding the Vietnam War, predominantly in two rural towns located within Ohio and West Virginia. Therefore, it was important for these characters to speak and behave in a way that not only represented where they were from but also in the time period in which they belonged. This was again depicted very well – a special shout-out to Bill Skarsgård.
The plot of this movie also deserves praise. It was raw and original, dabbling in themes such as corruption, violence and religious fanaticism. These themes often overlapped with one another, creating multiple unorthodox storylines. I particularly enjoyed the film’s exploration of the dangers of religious fanaticism – how characters exaggerated, mis-interpreted or were deceived by the words of biblical texts and babbling preachers. This led to certain scenes exploring the depths and reaches of the R rating.
I had a few issues with this film though. Firstly, I do not believe this film should’ve been made – it would’ve worked much better as a play. This is due to its use of third person narration, limited (and simplistic) choice of settings, and an ensemble of characters that were not consistently present on screen. All the characters of course had their own unique storylines, but it took time for these storylines to really “materialize” and converge with one another. The characters played by Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan & Bill Skarsgård, were only present in a handful of scenes combined. They all had half-explored arks, which I found disappointing because they were all very well written characters.
The pacing of this movie was also inconsistent. It takes place over a period of ~15 years, yet there were several time-skips (spanning multiple years) where it was hard to deduce that time had actually passed. The film often jumped forwards and backwards in time to contextualize certain scenes that occur in the “present”. But this wasn’t done very efficiently – the end product felt like a chaotic and muddled mix of past and present scenes. Other (minor) issues include Tom Holland’s accent in the movie. Though it was a good attempt at a midwestern American accent, it was far from perfect – his “Britishness” was all too prevalent at times.
In summary, both good and bad things can be said about The Devil all the Time. Some of the good things include its stellar cast, well written characters and unique premise. The bad things include its pacing, half explored character arks, and the decision to perform this screenplay on-screen rather than on stage.