The Devil All The Time, Tom Holland as Arvin Russell. Photo Cr. Glen Wilson/Netflix © 2020
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Slow pacing mars quality performances in The Devil All the Time

Director Antonio Campos collaborates with Netflix for an adaption of a critically acclaimed novel in The Devil All the Time. Based on the same-titled novel by writer Donald Ray Pollock, it is a grim and slow-burning film showcasing the dark side of America in the 1950’s.

The film opens with an introduction of Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård), a war veteran returning home. Willard is clearly not the same man who left home; however, that doesn’t stop his overbearing mother from attempting to match her son with Helen Hatton (Mia Wasikowska). As fate would have it, Willard has eyes for waitress Charlotte Russel (Haley Bennet), which means Helen finds love with a local preacher.

Time passes along, and we meet Willard & Charlotte’s adult son Arvin (Tom Holland) and Helen’s teenage daughter Lenora (Eliza Scanlen). We then follow Arvin and Lenora as their lives cross paths with an unholy preacher (Robert Pattinson), a twisted couple (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough), and a crooked sheriff (Sebastian Stan).

One of my primary reasons for viewing The Devil All the Time was seeing Tom Holland in a more dramatic fare. Primarily known for his famed work as Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Holland is decent in his first adult role. It’s a rather meaty role, and while The Devil All the Time is made up of impressive actors, Holland is the standout, carrying the film on his shoulders as a young man who can’t catch a break in a life already marred by tragedy.

Robert Pattinson continues to impress me with his acting choices and continues to erase memories of the Twilight franchise’s sparkling vampire. The actor is fresh from his performance in the big-budgeted Tenet, and takes on a substantial supporting role as a false prophet who is overly friendly with the women in his church congregation. I’ve long been a defender of Pattinson, following his exit from the Twilight franchise, as the actor continues to challenge himself.

For the most part, the supporting cast is solid, with Bill Skarsgård standing out. However, I found the character that Sebastian Stan, Jason Clarke, and Riley Keough portray to be a tad bit underwritten. When one of the three was on screen, I found myself phasing them out.

The director does paint a dark portrait of America in the eight-year time frame that the film spans, and I did enjoy some of the shot choices. Sadly the script and the film’s pacing may turn off some viewers. Antonio Campos co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Paulo, but it seems lost in the book’s transition to physical media.

About an hour into the film, I knew where the film was going, and I understood the trajectory of using the tropes of the sins of the father and southern Baptists as a whole. However, it just doesn’t come together as a cohesive final product in the end. Perhaps the better route would’ve been a limited series, broken up over four parts instead.

Despite the pacing issues, I’m still going to recommend The Devil All the Time on the strength of Tom Holland’s performance, and for fans of slow-burning dramas.

Final Grade C+

The Devil All the Time is available to stream at

Director Antonio Campos collaborates with Netflix for an adaption of a critically acclaimed novel in The Devil All the Time. Based on the same-titled novel by writer Donald Ray Pollock, it is a grim and slow-burning film showcasing the dark side of America in the 1950’s.

The film opens with an introduction of Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård), a war veteran returning home. Willard is clearly not the same man who left home; however, that doesn’t stop his overbearing mother from attempting to match her son with Helen Hatton (Mia Wasikowska). As fate would have it, Willard has eyes for waitress Charlotte Russel (Haley Bennet), which means Helen finds love with a local preacher.

Time passes along, and we meet Willard & Charlotte’s adult son Arvin (Tom Holland) and Helen’s teenage daughter Lenora (Eliza Scanlen). We then follow Arvin and Lenora as their lives cross paths with an unholy preacher (Robert Pattinson), a twisted couple (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough), and a crooked sheriff (Sebastian Stan).

One of my primary reasons for viewing The Devil All the Time was seeing Tom Holland in a more dramatic fare. Primarily known for his famed work as Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Holland is decent in his first adult role. It’s a rather meaty role, and while The Devil All the Time is made up of impressive actors, Holland is the standout, carrying the film on his shoulders as a young man who can’t catch a break in a life already marred by tragedy.

Robert Pattinson continues to impress me with his acting choices and continues to erase memories of the Twilight franchise’s sparkling vampire. The actor is fresh from his performance in the big-budgeted Tenet, and takes on a substantial supporting role as a false prophet who is overly friendly with the women in his church congregation. I’ve long been a defender of Pattinson, following his exit from the Twilight franchise, as the actor continues to challenge himself.

For the most part, the supporting cast is solid, with Bill Skarsgård standing out. However, I found the character that Sebastian Stan, Jason Clarke, and Riley Keough portray to be a tad bit underwritten. When one of the three was on screen, I found myself phasing them out.

The director does paint a dark portrait of America in the eight-year time frame that the film spans, and I did enjoy some of the shot choices. Sadly the script and the film’s pacing may turn off some viewers. Antonio Campos co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Paulo, but it seems lost in the book’s transition to physical media.

About an hour into the film, I knew where the film was going, and I understood the trajectory of using the tropes of the sins of the father and southern Baptists as a whole. However, it just doesn’t come together as a cohesive final product in the end. Perhaps the better route would’ve been a limited series, broken up over four parts instead.

Despite the pacing issues, I’m still going to recommend The Devil All the Time on the strength of Tom Holland’s performance, and for fans of slow-burning dramas.

Final Grade C+

The Devil All the Time is available to stream at netflix/TheDevilAllTheTime

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