Review: “The Devil All The Time” engages audience in protagonist’s navigation of corrupt world


photo courtesy of Nine Stories Production

Main character Arvin Russel, portrayed by Tom Holland seen in the film.

Eliot Rogal, Reporter

With a fast-paced plot, “The Devil All The Time” manages to immerse the viewer in a 20th century American small town and tell the story of Arvin Russel, played by Tom Holland, as he navigates the corrupt world around him. Although the movie’s focus is on protagonist Arvin Russel, played by Tom Holland, it also manages to give every other character a complete story. 

The movie, directed by Antonio Campos, is based on the book The Devil All The Time by Donald Ray Pollock and was released on September 16. Despite the length, at 2 hours and 18 minutes, the movie manages to stay engaging the entire time, even though it can be confusing at some points. 

The film takes place in two small towns, Knockemstiff, Ohio and Coal Creek, West Virginia in the 1960s but also contains flashbacks to the ‘50s and ‘40s. Beginning with a 9 year-old Arvin, it follows his traumatization after witnessing the cruelty of his town’s actions. 

After the setup, it then focuses on teenage Arvin as all the characters’ previously set up problems converge in a chain reaction which leads to terrible consequences and for Arvin to question his morals and beliefs

Although the setup is a bit confusing and slow, it is important because it provides background information on the characters of these two towns. There are many other characters who have a part to play in this story but their roles are seemingly endless. 

Throughout the movie, the narrator, voiced by Donald Ray Pollock, acts like a character. In many places he will foreshadow future scenes which adds an unusual level of humor to the movie. 

One aspect that makes this movie unique is that none of the characters are the “good” or “bad” guys. Almost all of the characters do bad things as a product of their life situation. This allows for the viewer to really be engaged because in any given scene, there is not someone who is supposed to win just because he is the “good guy.” These complex characters make the movie more genuine and relatable for watchers. 

The movie also focuses on the characters’ relationship with religion, and although the focus was on Christianity, I was still able to enjoy and even relate to the religious troubles of the characters.

Because of the occasional graphic violence, “The Devil All the Time“ may not be a movie for anyone easily disturbed. However, they spend very little time on these scenes so if you are alright with closing your eyes for a second or two, you will be able to watch the movie. The movie’s R rating is well-earned with strong language and nudity, so this movie is definitely not for small children.

“The Devil All The Time” exceeds expectations for a movie with such a complex plot, and is an engaging and amazing film that will keep you wondering what’s going to happen next until the very end.