Evocative storytelling makes ‘The Devil All the Time’ worth a watch

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With movie theaters still closed across he country due to the pandemic, Netflix continues to pump out quality films like “The Devil All the Time” that scratch that new movie itch, but don’t really make a huge impact.

Top tier actors, a good story and Hollywood-level production values make “The Devil All the Time” worth a watch on the streaming service. But there’s still something lacking in these new age “made-for-TV movies”. It’s as if Netflix has not quite figured out how to capture that big screen magic, even if they show no signs of slowing down their attempts.

“The Devil All the Time” is a slow, methodical movie that uses its many characters well and really excels in creating atmosphere.

Set after World War II in and around rural West Virginia, “Devil” is the story of several characters and extended family members whose lives weave around one another in often violent and miserable ways. It’s a movie about death, suicide, cruelty and vengeance.

The film is based on a book of the same name, and it makes a lot of sense that this story was a book first. It has a lot of characters, all of whom get their own little storylines, and the way they weave together and butt into one another feels like a dense novel. The film version does a good job of repeating this narrative, though it’s a little confusing at first since there is no real main character until about halfway through.

The main character eventually ends up being Arvin, played by Tom Holland, who is most famous these days for playing Spider-Man in the Marvel superhero movies. Holland proves in this film that he’s got the acting chops for other roles, so hopefully he has a long career ahead of him. Another Hollywood up-and-comer, Robert Pattinson, also holds his own in the film as a corrupt preacher.

The acting is solid all across the diverse cast.

The real draw of “The Devil All the Time” is going to be the evocative storytelling. The filmmakers do a phenomenal job with the setting and the tone, digging deep into small town, rural America in the 1950s and ‘60s. It’s like stepping back in time. The movie then really pushes the themes of the film, from cruelty to religion to corruption to the desire for revenge. This is a movie that is built largely on tone.

At times, the movie felt a little too cruel, a little too miserable. Being a good person does not guarantee you a happy ending in this film. That may be tough to stomach for some viewers.

In the end, “The Devil All the Time” is a dense, intricately crafted movie with a lot of story to tell and a lot of style in the telling.

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