Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Eliza Scanlen
Director: Antonio Campos
Running Time: 138 mins
The Devil All The Time is an American film about a young man who finds himself increasingly surrounded by sinister people, pushing him to go to great lengths to protect the people he loves.
Pointlessly miserable and painfully dull from start to finish, The Devil All The Time is one of the most boring experiences I’ve had watching a film in a long time. It frustratingly tries to flaunt its brilliance with a slow-build screenplay, yet comes up short as it becomes easily distracted by superficial and gratuitous violence and misery, lacking the character depth or atmosphere to make its story in any way engrossing.
It seems strange to criticise a movie that’s clearly meant to be a heavy-going, harsh watch for being too miserable, but there is a reason for it. Some of the best films in history are incredibly gloomy, but they back that sense of despair up with depth and emotion. The Devil All The Time, however, seems all too concerned with simply upsetting you in any way possible, without looking deeper into its characters and setting.
Given the story takes place in a small, deeply Christian town, the film sets itself up to be a really interesting view on how life in a depressed village can be, and the impact of dark forces in upturning the morale of everybody who lives there.
To achieve that, however, this film needed to spend a lot more effort on developing its characters, their motivations and their relationships, rather than developing tenuous links between them and labelling each of them with a superficial character trait that’s meant to be some excuse for genuine dramatic depth.
Despite the wealth of talent on display here – including Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska, Sebastian Stan and so many more – none of them has the opportunity to perform at their best because of a screenplay that offers so little character intrigue from start to finish.
All seem to give their all in putting on a heavy accent, but none are able to really grab you at any point, with the few moments of eye-catching intrigue the film’s more gratuitously violent sequences.
Unfortunately, director Antonio Campos seems to believe that dark, gory violence is a substitute for slow-build tension. Nothing really happens in this movie away from its most violent moments, with a total lack of ominous atmosphere and bubbling suspense in the air, and the fact that the film feels like it can get away with just throwing in some violence here and there is extremely frustrating to see.
In that vein, The Devil All The Time comes across as a movie that’s trying to be as miserable as it can be for the sake of it. Its story has none of the emotional resonance necessary to pull you into the world it’s creating, and that means its air of pure gloom feels more gratuitous than genuinely earned. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 5.7 overall.