‘The Devil All The Time’ promises a thrilling story that falls through



Tom Holland in The Devil All the Time (2020)

In a year where theaters have been closed and the most exciting movies have been pushed into 2021, any blockbuster film feels like an oasis in the desert. Naturally, I was thrilled to hear about the new Netflix drama “The Devil All The Time” which boasts big names and an exciting cult-based plot. 

“The Devil All The Time,” based on a novel of the same name, has much to offer as it pairs up Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson on the poles of good versus evil. Holland plays the young, scrappy country boy who fights against an oily and perverse false preacher played by Pattinson. The story weaves a plethora of ensemble characters throughout the plot topped off by serial killers and police corruption. It’s a lot, to say the least.

 Director Antonio Campos helms the project, and it’s clear that he has plenty to say in the 140 minutes he’s given. There are probably close to a dozen characters that traipse through the film, each revealing complicated themes of fathers and sons, the cycle of war, and, most frequently, religious hypocrisy, which leaves very little time for exciting, easy to swallow drama. 

Tom Holland, a veteran at carrying oversized movies, is one of the best assets this film has. He stoically propels the plot as Arvin weathers every tragedy that befalls him and is the only glimmer of hope in the ever-cycling violence that seems engrained in Campos’s Appalachian culture. 

Robert Pattinson’s drawling Pastor Teagardin on the other hand struggles to find a footing and isn’t given many interactions to grow his character, making Teagardin an underwhelming, but still slimy, villain.

The rest of the cast is peppered with notable names and faces, but many of the characters feel like glorified cameos as they come and go in the sprawling plot. While they each have interesting stories, they’re not missed much in this plot-focused epic. 

This intense focus on storytelling leads to the downfall of “The Devil All the Time.” It has the dark and twisty feeling of Faulkner’s gothic fiction, but the characters are hard to relate to and rarely get the chance to interact or play off of each other. While most movies build a complex and rich story, this folktale is as flat and long as the country roads it depicts. 

“The Devil All The Time” does have a few bright spots though. It’s beautifully shot and carefully designed to bring the dirty and weathered West Virginia setting to life, and the film’s narration (by the novel’s author Donald Ray Pollock) adds wry observations and levity to even the most gruesome scenes. 

If you’re hoping to find a fun Friday night flick, “The Devil All The Time” might not be quite what you’re looking for. But in a time when new movies are scarce, even a Gothic drama might do the trick.