“The Devil All the Time” is a movie released on Netflix in early September 2020, adapted from Ronald Ray Pollock’s book of the same name, published in 2011. Directed by Antonio Campos, noticed for “The Sinner” also available on Netflix and produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, this movie follows the destinies of several characters whose fates are linked by drama, tragedy and religion.
The story takes places in Knockenstiff, in a deep and puritanical America, forgotten by the big cities and bruised by war. In this America of the 50’s then 60’s, we live side by side with misery, violence and drama in a society necrosed by religion and faith.
This film attempts to show this violence through the story over two generations of several characters, whose destiny will be tragic and intertwined with sordid events, all linked to religion and the will of God. Throughout the film we find a dark, sticky photograph depicting a disgusting atmosphere.
This violence is first witnessed through flashbacks of the war and the psychological traumas it caused on Willard Russel (Bill Skarsgard). This trauma will be closely linked to religion through the image of a soldier whose mutilated body is crucified that Willard saw during the war.
Willard’s wife, Charlotte (Haley Bennet) falls seriously ill, from that moment he becomes obsessed with his faith and the making of confusing rituals that aim to save her. He makes his last appeal to god. But all these actions will be useless.
Upon the death of his wife, Willard commits suicide, leaving his son, Arvin (Michael Banks Repeta) alone in a hostile and violent world. This first part of the movie is very dark and captivating.
Then follows a series of different stories all linked together by drama, death and religion. We find a teenage Arvin, played by Tom Holland, who grew up with his uncle and grandmother and who has an intense hatred for religion. He grew up with an adopted sister, Lenora (Eliza Scanlen). Whose presence is also linked to a tragedy causes by religion but unlike to Arvin, has a boundless love for religion and its precepts. We also find Carl a serial killer, Lee a corrupt policeman and his sister Sandy, married to the serial Killer.
All these stories will be led by an impressive cast that includes Riley Keough, Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Jason Clarke, Mia Wasikowska, Bill Skarsgard and many others. In spite of this casting, the second part of the film seems much less convincing. The links between the stories are gradually taking shape, but it’s hard to really grasp what’s at stake, there’s a lack of interested behind all these stories. Except maybe for Tom Holland, we are not really attached to the characters and their destiny is not really a thing.
Photography, details and good chaining between stories may still be enough for some to compensate the void created by this second part. But after such a first part, we are inevitably disappointed by the note left by this second part, which leaves us with a bad feeling.