Sometimes you watch a movie and feel like you’ve been a through a genuine kind of experience. It might be good, it might be bad. It might be one you want to revisit as soon as the credits finish rolling and you’ve had a bathroom break, or it might be something you never want to think about again.
Sometimes the latter even happens when you’ve appreciated what you’ve just seen but still feel that, “once was enough” for you. This is where The Devil All the Time sits in my mind. Imagine a Quentin Tarantino movie, but with all the humour and good music drained out of it. So basically a story where people are horribly violent to one another, and a few storylines cross over in ways that weren’t immediately apparent at first. Set it in hillbilly country in the US in the mid 60s and bake till done.
The movie caught my eye initially because of the cast. Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson are big names, but I also recognised Harry Melling in the mix who most pop culture fans click their fingers and declare, “Ahhh, it’s Dudley Dursley from Harry Potter, and he’s lost a ton of weight…” and that’s fine, but I hope Doctor Who fans go a step further and recognise young Melling as the grandson of the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, and thus the nephew of Troughton’s sons, David and Michael.
Although the film had a small cinema release in the US to my understanding, it was basically a Netflix film from the start and was allegedly was the most-watched thing on Netflix over its first two days – I would suggest because of the cast. Spiderman fans of Holland and Twilight fans of Pattinson would have been pretty surprised to see what how their idols act in this. And, just thinking about it, that could be why both of them took the roles. They’re acting here quite differently to how pop culture perceives them. Pattinson especially so. And that’s actually a nice thing to see young actors doing.
I said earlier that watching the movie made me feel like I’d had an experience and if I had to stretch that thought out so you could understand me a little better, I’d say it was an experience that felt like I was a party to the crimes being committed but unable to do anything about them. It’s really rough and raw – not the glamorous or ‘fun’ side of crime that we see in so many films – and you don’t feel good about a lot of the things that are presented on-screen. It makes you feel really quite unpleasant.
Without the humour and music of a Tarrantino film, I found this a real slog and quite difficult to watch in places… but I always wanted to see how it ended. So while it’s more than fair to say that I have no intention of ever intentionally watching again – I think you’d have to be a very particular kind of person to see this as ‘entertaining’ – I’m glad I watched it once. It’s that kind of movie to my mind.
I went into The Devil All the Time this not knowing what to expect and by keeping my comments brief, hopefully I can preserve that experience for you, too. Perhaps if I just say it’s an inter-generational piece down South in the US where damaged people become even more damaged and do (really) horrible things because of that damage, that will be enough to know whether it’s your cup of tea.