The devil All the Time18
It may well be far too consumed by its ego to notice, but the Hollywood star system is under attack. If it were a film, it would probably be called Invasion of the Jobby Snatchers.
It’s not just that Hollywood is being swarmed by foreign talent, they’re performing on the big screen with red, white and blue accents, replacing perfectly adequate American actors.
Sure the foreign element has been quite sneaky about the whole talent offensive, with just the odd Brit or Aussie taking the lead, so as not to cause a stir.
US director Antonio Campos takes it to a whole new level with his latest film however, where trying to find a US lead is like playing a filmic version of where’s Wally/Waldo.
Returning home after a particularly distressing tour of duty during the Second World War is Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård). He finds some comfort from finding love on his return, falling in love with a waitress in a diner, Charlotte (Haley Bennett).
The couple soon have their first child Arvin, but the family unit struggles to stay together.
Arvin (Tom Holland) is then brought up by his uncle and aunt, who also take in another unfortunate stray Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), whom he treats as a step-sister.
With everything that has happened so far, Arvin is due some luck, and yet a darkness not only follows him, but also seems to embrace those around him too, as he struggles with living anything close to a normal life.
Considering how US specific this film’s setting is, it’s remarkable how much non US talent is involved. The major roles are taken up by two Brits (Holland and Robert Pattinson), three Australians (Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska and Jason Clarke), One Swede (Skarsgård) and one Romanian (Sebastian Stan) – all playing Americans. If nothing else it must break some Guinness world record. The talent then, is outstanding. The script however, is another matter.
Based on Donald Ray Pollack’s novel of the same name, The Devil All the time is draining to watch. It is a film so devoid of hope that it becomes difficult to withstand the onslaught of grimness. Every major character has a darkness about them, which never leaves. It is one long tunnel, lasting two hours and twenty minutes, with no flicker of light at any stage whatsoever. To that end, it is a film to endure rather than enjoy.
Ironically the only sense of comfort comes by way of the narrator, guiding us through this weary landscape, who just so happens to be the writer himself, Pollack.
The script shifts a number of times, adding new characters as it goes along, as it creates this interconnected web, which certainly creates a bigger picture, it’s just this said bigger picture may leave you feeling somewhat hopeless yourself at the end of it.
This is by far the biggest project that Campos has been involved with to date, and there’s a possibility it was just a bit too big for him to handle. To his credit he does well capturing the period superbly, and he gets some incredibly strong performances from his mostly non US cast.
The story however, needed something, just to lift it in places, to help make it far more palatable than it currently is, which is quite the grind.
As a showcase for foreign talent it’s a tour de force, but as a film an audience can connect with emotionally it proves to be a hellish struggle.