The final scene of Antonio Campos’ latest film finds protagonist Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) yawning tremendously and falling asleep in the passenger’s seat of a car. If at this point you haven’t already joined this character in slumber, you’ll at the very least be able to relate to the yawns. A cinematic sleeping pill that is truly laborious to muscle through, The Devil All the Time begs for a fade to black, whether it’s your own eyes closing or the final cut to credits. It’s filled with far too many characters and far too much melodramatic overload to ever stand on its own two feet without continuously kicking you with its overbearing imperfections.

The first act focuses on Marine Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård), who has returned from WWII and married a waitress named Charlotte (Haley Bennett). A near-neurotic God-fearer, scarred by a haunting religious tableau witnessed while in war, Willard raises his son (a 9-year-old Arvin played by Michael Banks Repeta) to vocally praise and pray to the Lord at a constructed cross in their backyard woods. This story has a grisly and tragic end, as does an intertwined companion piece which stars Mia Wasikowska as Helen, whose life swiftly ends at the hands of her evangelical preacher husband (Harry Melling). For the record, you can expect essentially all of the female stories in the film to fall “at the hands” of their male counterparts, as The Devil All the Time doesn’t fail the Bechdel test as much as it chucks it out the window and sets it on fire.

Where do we go from here? After these two stories meet their unfortunate conclusions, we witness the aftermath of Arvin and Helen’s daughter, Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), his adopted “step-sister.” The two go on separate paths, with Lenora finding her story predictably marred by a skeevy preacher who molests her, gets her pregnant and drives her to suicide. The preacher, while a slimy and undesirable character, gives us the only interesting performance in the entire film as Robert Pattinson hams it up and seems to recognize, contrary to all his castmates, that the movie he’s in is truly a ridiculous work of overdramatic excess.

There are a few more characters who factor into the plot, such as a serial killer couple played by Jason Clarke and Riley Keough, as well as a cop played by Sebastien Stan, and it all comes swirling together in ways that only perpetuate the movie’s reliable tedium. Themes of religious fanaticism, abuse of power, ripples of family trauma and more are all examined throughout the film, but it all ends up being an oversaturated disaster that can never keep its focus in one place for long enough for us to give a damn.

And to put the final cherry on top, the film decides to have the author of its source material, Donald Ray Pollock, narrate the film incessantly throughout the entire thing. It’s as if Campos said, “Hey, Don, I can’t write to save my life, you want to just explain what’s happening all the time?” And boy, does he.

It's as if the director told the author of his source material, "Hey I can't write to save my life, you want to just explain what's happening all the time?"
32 %
Boring as Hell
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