Review: The Devil All the Time


Stephon Spiegel (12th), Reporter

I am a sucker for thriller movies. Movies that evoke strong emotions such as disgust, catharism, and sorrow always stick with me. When I heard a psychological thriller with an all-star cast with such huge Hollywood names such as Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson, was coming to Netflix I was immensely ecstatic. This excitement came from the prior huge Netflix hit Marriage Story which also featured all-star names (Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson), so I had some expectation for the quality these Netflix originals can have. 

Without further adieu, here’s how Antonio Campos’s The Devil All The Time, resonated with me, but first I’ll give a synopsis of the plot.


The story of The Devil All The Time spans from 1950 to 1965. The events surround the Russel family and the tangential stories of the others in their home of Ohio. The trigger for all the events in the story is around how Willard Russel’s ( Bill Skarsgard) trauma from serving in WWII corrupted his belief in God. This corrupted belief led to the emotional trauma and abandonment of his son Arvin (Tom Holland) via his suicide after the death of his mother. Arvin continues his life with his grandparents and acts as a brother to fellow orphan Lenora (Eliza Scanlen). Due to how his father’s faith traumatized him, Arvin is very skeptical of religion, while his sister Lenora is an avid believer. A new reverend comes to the local church, Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson) and Lenora soon becomes a victim of his grooming. Lenora is impregnated by Teagardin, and she kills herself. Arvin takes it into his own hands to seek vengeance. He kills Teagardin with a pistol that was gifted to him by his father. Two side plots following corrupt sheriff, Lee Brodecker (Sebastian Stan) and the perverted murder couple Carl and Sandy Henderson (Jason Clarke and Riley Keough) intertwine with Arvins story. Arvin is picked up by the couple and murders them out of self defense. He soon runs away to the old house where the story started. Sheriff Brodecker confronts Arvin and attempts to kill him, to his failure. Arvin then wanders off to be picked up as a hitchhiker and tries not to fall asleep, he dreams of being a husband or even a soldier serving in Vietnam.


I’ll just say this, this movie, to me, is really…really good. The interweaving of the narratives is amazing and makes every part of the film feel important. The only side plot I would consider weak is Sheriff Brodeckers, as it felt not nearly as developed as the others. 


The cast is truly amazing, especially Tom Holland, who truly displayed his acting chops with such a serious and layered character. The scene of him beating the hell out of Lenora’s harassers felt truly cathartic to watch, with Holland’s passion showing in every hit of his sisters’ abusers. Pattinson also shines with a truly disturbing character, the way his sweet sounding, but eerie voice lulls to his victims that he grooms was truly encapsulating and he made me as an audience member pay 1000x more attention to the scenes he was in. 


The use of violence in this film is also perfect, as it is used to move the narrative along in a meaningful way. The scene of Arvin anhilitating Lenora’s bullies is both cathartic and chilling, as he repeats the violence his father committed before his childhood wide-eyes.


The themes in this film are also deeply intriguing, such as the ideal of faith being a tool that can easily corrupt people. This is displayed with Willard’s faith being transformed into this disturbing, desperate attempt to connect with his God, via sacrificing his dog to save his wife and forcing a young Arvin to pray over and over again to save his mom. Teagardins abuse of his position to groom young girls also displays how faith can corrupt people.

Another theme that is amazing in this film is how abuse can echo from generation to generation. Such as Arvin repeating his father’s violent actions, and even killing with the same pistol his father had. The ending is haunting as it makes the audience feel relief and then painfully inserts Arvin’s thoughts that directly echo the path his father was on. 

Overall, The Devil All The Time is a well constructed film that contains many thought provoking themes that are conveyed through a captivating narrative that keeps your attention all the way through. The all-star cast deliver with absolutely terrific performances set to an interwoven narrative that climaxes in a satisfying manner.