American epics often weave their stories through the decades, bolstered by a cast of characters who run the length and breadth of the morality spectrum, making their way through a world that’s changing faster than they are. In Scorsese’s hands the action would be cut to a stylish tempo, peppered with eclectic pop music. The Devil All the Time, however, is a twisted Gordian knot of a drama and it’s told with  a drawl.

Beginning in 1957 in a cluster of towns along the West Virginia-Ohio border, Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård) tries to raise his son in a godly manner. Surrounding them is a populace that’s ripe with corruption and brutality. Even Willard, recently returned from the Pacific war, struggles to keep a lid on his own violence. The story slowly spins out across the generations, showing the repeated cycles of violence, hate and love that haunt this patch of country.

The film has an excellent sense of place; locations are revisited throughout and their significance grows darker with each return. Everything feels close, as though the characters are brushing shoulders constantly, creating tension throughout—it is never a question of if, but when certain figures will bump into each other.

The narrative feels mythic in the ways it can be read. At moments it lies somewhere between a Steinbeck novel and a superhero origin story. However, as the characters travel up and down the roads there’s an overwhelming sense of being trapped in time: stuck between one war and the next with no clear way out.

The Devil All the Time reveals itself slowly but, bolstered by an all-star cast and confident directing, it mesmerises the audience, pulling them into its murky morals. Despite the pace, it keeps the tension and when it’s over its ideas begin unfolding, sticking in the mind long after it’s finished.



CAST: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Eliza Scanlen, Sebastian Stan, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough

DIRECTOR: Antonio Campos

WRITERS: Antonio Campos, Paulo Campos (screenplay), Donald Ray Pollack (novel)

SYNOPSIS: In a small mountainside town, a number of people try to make their way in the world caught between the word of God and their own self-interest. Born into this world of corruption and violence a young man tries to do good.