We don’t want to miss a Netflix highlight from 2020: A few months apart, we’ll tell you in this review how we liked the star-studded bestseller film adaptation THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME find.
OT: The Devil all the Time (USA 2020)
The run-down community of Knockemstiff in Ohio combines everything there is to say about what the so-called “Bible Belt” of the USA is really like: Arvin Eugene Russell (Tom Holland) grows up here among religious fanatics, psychopaths and corrupt sheriffs. His stepmother Charlotte (Haley Bennett) is seriously ill and hopeless. Her husband Willard (Bill Skarsgård) is a war veteran and believes in the occult. Arvin wants to escape the spiral of violence that defines this place. But people like a couple of serial killers (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough), the dubious sheriff Lee Brodecker (Sebastian Stan) and the shady priest Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson) prevent this. Through their actions… and partly just through their presence…
The American writer Donald Ray Pollock is primarily known for his heavy fare, in which he deals with the sadness and moral abysses of his home region. The author, who was previously a slaughterhouse worker, had his breakthrough with an 18-part anthology about his birthplace, Knockemstiff. The short stories were riddled with senseless violence, shattering hopes and painful longings – and Pollock’s novel “The Devil’s Craft”, now adapted for Netflix under its original title, follows this tone seamlessly. Seen this way, with “The Devil All the Time” in the fall, Netflix anticipated its drama “Hillbilly Elegy,” which was released as an Oscar hopeful but was quickly thwarted by very negative reviews. Both films are full of the blows of fate and harsh dramas that often occur in rural regions of the USA that see themselves as Christian-conservative. But where Ron Howard’s film looks at this milieu with a melodramatic, pitying “These people are the salt of the earth, and look what happens to them!” tonality, director António Campos, based on Pollock’s template, paints a desolate, devastating picture of a parallel society in which vicious circles can still be found.
The Devil All The Time: Robert Pattinson as Preston Teagardin. Photo Cr. Glen Wilson/Netflix © 2020
Although Tom Holland’s character of the well-meaning Eugene, oppressed by his environment, makes it clear that no generalization should be made, “The Devil All the Time” concentrates on the sweaty, mentally rotten depths of Knockemstiff: Extremist religious feelings, preachers, who misinterpret the Bible with complete conviction and receive applause for it, desperation that degenerates into blind violence, and complete ruthlessness make up the characters that this film primarily revolves around. And evil causes evil: “The Devil All the Time” is a narrative patchwork in which individual fates unknowingly influence each other and thus cause new, fatal individual fates – an anti-“Love Actually…”, so to speak. What is shown is faithfully counteracted by the poetic formulations of a narrator, who in the original version is Pollock himself, who creates a special atmosphere with a calm, level-headed, yet robust voice. In the dubbing, audio book narrator Axel Lutter accompanies the nasty events with sensitive composure to a deliberately confusing effect – a friendly fairytale uncle rummages in the putrid bowels of the Bible Belt.
“The Devil All the Time” is a narrative patchwork in which individual fates unknowingly influence each other and thus cause new, fatal individual fates – an anti-“Love Actually”, so to speak.
The cast of “The Devil All the Time” is consequently not tasked with playing in a particularly nuanced way, but rather with developing these pointed archetypes intensively and yet plausibly. Robert Pattinson gives probably the most impressive performance in the film, turning a smarmy clergyman into a lying, self-absorbed joke character with a squeaky accent who nevertheless radiates something dangerous throughout. Harry Melling, on the other hand, is the dark caricature of manic priests that often appear in Bible Belt dramas, and Riley Keough is probably the most vital part of the film as the excited killer bride. Sebastian Stan as a growling cop and Tom Holland, Eliza Scanlen and Mia Wasikowska are pawns in this chess game of suffering. Director Antonio Campos relies on a dusty, rancid visual aesthetic that doesn’t become monotonous – but he creates too many variations in the way in which Knockemstiff’s abysses express themselves visually.
Haley Bennett as Charlotte Russell and Bill Skarsgård as Willard Russell in Netflix’s “The Devil all the Time.
“The Devil All the Time” is accompanied by an illustrious selection of country and bluegrass songs full of melancholy and romantic longing, which allow Knockemstiff’s reality to meet the dream of a serene nowhere in the USA. It can be criticized that “The Devil All the Time” merely depicts rather than explains what exactly makes such vicious circles possible, let alone even offers solutions. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to portray “The Devil All the Time” as “misery porn” – Antonio Campo’s production does not delight in the fates, and just as little does he want to arouse feigned pity for the heartless people who cause pain in this film. It’s more about uncompromisingly portraying terribly deluded people and the biotope in which they soar – and leaving it up to the audience to decide what conclusions they draw.
“It can be criticized that ‘The Devil All the Time’ merely depicts, rather than explains, what exactly makes such vicious circles possible, let alone even offers solutions. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to portray it as “misery porn.”
Conclusion: “The Devil All the Time” is a dirty drama about bad people that is skillfully and powerfully delivered.
“The Devil all the Time” is available to stream on Netflix.