An acclaimed novel gets a riveting and dangerous movie version on Netflix.
It’s not often we get to hear authors narrating the movie version of their acclaimed books. “The Devil All The Time,” the new Netflix crime drama, is based on the book by Donald Ray Pollack, who does a nice job at narrating select moments in the film. It’s a story about evil and violence, and the people consumed by it. There are those who are good, others who are wolves in sheep’s clothing, and those who have to experience the evils of one’s actions.
Tom Holland plays Arvin, a young man living in Southern Ohio between WWII and the Vietnam War, whose war vet father Willard (Bill Skarsgard) taught him all he need to know about ending a fight. Holland can portray characters outside his “Spider-Man” personality, as in “The Impossible” and “The Lost City of Z,” and in “The Devil All The Time,” he kicks himself up in high gear and delivers a searing, gripping performance.
Before we meet Arvin, we meet Willard as a disturbed man, who had to execute a crucified marine in enemy territory, teaches his boy how to finish a fight, and begs the Lord to cure his ill wife (Haley Bennett). His side of the story ends when the old man takes his own life, leaving the boy an orphan. Michael Banks Repeta plays the younger version of him, while Skarsgard explodes with greta intensity as the father, who breaks tradition, and delves into his character’s reality.
Now, he’s sent to live with his step-sister Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), whose mother (Mia Wasikowska) was killed by her kooky preacher husband (Harry Melling). And when they get older, Arvin picks up his father’s fighting skills, while Lenora has a fling with an arrogant new preacher (Robert Pattinson). This subplot gives the characters their faults, especially when Arvin tries to protect his step-sister, and when the young girl realizes she went too far with the affair.
On the side, we meet the twisted couple Carl (Jason Clarke) and Sandy (Riley Keough), who often take road trips, so Carl can take pictures of hitchhikers screwing his wife and then murdering them. She’s repulsed by her husband’s behavior. Meanwhile, her older brother Lee Bodecker (Sebastian Stan) is a local, corrupt sheriff, who cares more about the election than he does on the law. Both sides of this movie keep you involved with how they’re played out, and keep you at the edge of your seat, when Arvin comes in their presence.
“The Devil All The Time,” directed by Antonio Campos (“Afterschool,” “Simon Killer”) and produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, is chocked full of dangerous performances, sinister intentions, guilts, faults, and directions in life. There are characters from different walks of life, who express themselves through words and violence. I warn you: certain moments of that go too far, like when we see how Carl slaughters one of his victims, and how Willard had to murder Arvin’s beloved dog in exchange for his wife’s cure. But once you get through them, you’re able to acknowledge the reality of it all.
The acting from Holland, Skarsgard, Scanlen, Stan, Clarke, Keough, Melling, and Pattinson are all electrifying and daring as they’re able to ease into their characters. And again, the narration by Pollack matches the mood and tone of the movie. You’re able to see how various characters are able to fit into one character’s life, which in this case is Arvin, and “The Devil All The Time” takes its delicate time in explaining to those who never read the book who they are and where they’re going.
Available on Netflix