The Devil All the Time

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
The Devil All the Time Movie Poster Image
Gripping drama has disturbing violence, sex, language.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 139 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 7 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Families love and care for each other in different ways, and they also pass down values and traditions from generation to generation -- for better and for worse. Religious faith can help people through hard times, though this film suggests it can also breed superstitious behavior, belief in false prophets, and terrible choices or actions with sometimes fatal consequences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Arvin's grandparents provide him a loving home when his parents die, and they do the same for an orphaned girl. Arvin's deep need to protect his stepsister leads him to extreme violence, just as his father had taught him to do when the father beat up men who had threatened his wife. A man and a woman lure innocent hitchhikers into their car in order to kill them, but the woman seems to feel increasing guilty about their crimes. Politicians and priests are both depicted as corrupt in different ways.

Violence

Extreme violence throughout the film includes war scenes, two suicides, and more than a dozen people killed in a variety of manners shown in graphic detail (mostly shooting and stabbing). Characters maim or kill for different reasons: out of a misguided religious faith (as a sacrifice, or to attempt a resurrection), to teach their kids a lesson, to protect or avenge loved ones, as self defense, for personal pleasure, or to avoid being exposed as corrupt. Two serial killers lure in young men with sex then photograph them dead or dying. A man kills a dog as a sacrifice to God to save his dying wife. 

Sex

A local bar has prostitutes. A teen boy and girl are fooling around in a school bus and he's about to take off his pants before they're interrupted. Teen boys chase and tease a female classmate, talking about "hard-ons." A woman pleasures a man in his car so that he ejaculates into a cup. A priest convinces teenage girls to take off their clothes and engage in sexual acts with him, which we see from inside or outside his car (undressing and positions suggested) or from outside his window (a woman performing oral sex). In another scene, a man who has watched the priest in these acts describes them in detail. A man and woman lure young hitchhikers to have sex with the woman (the man commands one to "f--k" his wife) so the man can photograph and kill them; we see these acts in a detailed series of underexposed photos that show some sexual positions and nudity.

Language

"S--t," "f--k," "bulls--t," "ass," "godforsaken," "hell," "sons of bitches," "goddamnit," "pimping," "whore."

Consumerism

Some car makes. Actual town names in West Virginia and Ohio. Soundtrack.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A soldier drinks to celebrate coming home from war. The same man later drinks by himself at a bar as his wife dies of cancer. People discuss a man who "got sober" and another who is a "drunk." A serial killing couple drink liquor straight from a bottle with one of their victims.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Devil All the Time is an extremely graphic film with disturbing scenes of violence and sex. It offers a largely negative portrayal of religious faith, including a priest who convinces devout teenage girls to have sex with him, a proselytizer who stabs his wife because he thinks he can resurrect her, and a man who kills a dog as a sacrifice to God to save his dying wife. Adapted from a novel, the film depicts rural areas in the 1950s and 1960s as dens of poverty, depravity, corruption, and ignorance. There are war scenes, two suicides, and more than a dozen people killed in a variety of manners shown in graphic detail. Characters maim or kill to teach their kids a lesson, to protect or avenge loved ones, as self defense, for personal pleasure, or to avoid being exposed as corrupt. A man and a woman are serial killers who lure young men in with sex then photograph them dead or dying. A series of underexposed photos show the woman in various positions with her victims.  Other sex scenes are less graphic in terms of what's shown on screen, but not in terms of what we understand to be happening, including a woman pleasuring a man in a car, another performing oral sex on the priest, a bar that has rooms in the back with prostitutes, two teens about to have sex on a school bus, and teen boys chasing a girl and talking about "hard-ons." Language includes various forms of "s--t" and "f--k" as well as "ass," "hell," "bitch," "damn," "pimp," and "whore." Some drinking.

Wondering if The Devil All the Time is OK for your kids?

Parents: Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byAaron C. September 16, 2020

Messed up Masterpiece

The Devil all the time is a very unusual dark drama. It's gripping and has a lot of brilliant actors. This movie shows how messed up people can be. It also... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byError_404 September 22, 2020

Superb drama is dark and methodical, with much to say and an intellegant way of saying it.

For a quick summary, The Devil All the Time is an excellent movie that is not for anyone under 17. If that is all you are here for, you can skip the rest of th... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byA Pubescent September 20, 2020

Very dark

Unless your kid is 16 or is a very mature 14-15 year old this one is pretty off limits for younger kids. Overall It was five stars.

What's the story?

THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME weaves together several families' stories over a decade in two small towns in West Virginia and Ohio. In one family, the son, Willard (Bill Skarsgard), is just back from war in 1957. His mother (Kristin Griffith) made a pact with God to marry him off to a local woman, Helen (Mia Wasikowska), if he came back alive, but Willard has his eye on a waitress he's met (Haley Bennett). He marries the waitress and they have a son, Arvin, but she dies of cancer when the boy is still young and Willard commits suicide soon after. Arvin (Tom Holland) is sent to live with his grandmother, who has also taken in Helen's daughter Lenora (Eliza Scanlen) as Helen and her husband Roy (Harry Melling) have both gone missing. Lenora grows up to be a devout Christian, picked on by local boys and easy prey for an immoral priest. Arvin's family doesn't know yet that Helen and Roy are both dead. Roy's path has intersected with serial killers Carl (Jason Clarke) and Sandy (Riley Keough). The killers get away with murder for years, even though Sandy's brother Lee (Sebastian Stan) is the local sheriff. Lee knows the only thing that separates him from all the other sinners is that he's the law.

Is it any good?

As much as you want to be repelled by the depraved characters and relentless violence, this film manages to keep you curious. Maybe more impressively, The Devil All the Time 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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether any of the characters in The Devil All the Time are sympathetic. If so, which ones, and why?

  • How is religious faith portrayed in this film? Does the portrayal differ from your own experience of church or religion?

  • Have you read the novel this film is based on or any other work by the author Donald Ray Pollock? How does his writing compare with the film?

  • Did the setting of this film remind you of others you've seen? Which ones?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate