As much as you want to be repelled by the depraved characters and relentless violence of The Devil All the Time, this film manages to keep you curious. Maybe more impressively, it makes you care for some of the broken souls inhabiting its two map-speck towns.
This is no easy feat. The well-known international cast pulls off playing evil while hinting at the weaknesses and trauma fueling their characters' actions, forcing you to grapple with comprehending characters even as they make appalling, morally questionable choices.
At well over two hours long, the film could have done this even better by cutting out a couple of the less-developed stories -- for example, the corrupt sheriff's dealings with a mistress and local crime bosses.
Director Antonio Campos seems fascinated by the darkest side of human nature, but he has set the film to a blend of period gospel, folk, country, and other music that keeps the mood from feeling as miserable as the stories warrant.
Adapted from the novel (often labeled "hillbilly gothic") by Donald Ray Pollock, who narrates the film, Devil is set in the gloomy borderlands between West Virginia and Ohio between 1957 and 1965. This location and between-war period is characterized in the film by financial and spiritual poverty.
Still, there are no easy moral lessons here, no heroes, and few characters or themes painted in black and white. It won't be for everyone, but given a chance, Devil could surprise more than a few initially reluctant viewers.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.