The Devil All the Time parents guide

The Devil All the Time Parent Guide

If you're squeamish in any way, there's a lot here that you're not going to like.

Overall D+

Netflix: Arvin Russell, a young man in tiny Knockemstiff, Ohio, is struggling to protect his family from the multitude of sinister figures who inhabit the town - including a devious preacher, a lascivious couple, and the corrupt sherrif.

Release date September 16, 2020

Violence D
Sexual Content D
Profanity D
Substance Use C

Why is The Devil All the Time rated R? The MPAA rated The Devil All the Time R

Run Time: 138 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Arvin Russel (Tom Holland) grew up in tiny Knockemstiff, Ohio, with his father, traumatized WWII vet Willard (Bill Skarsgard) and mother, kind-hearted waitress Charlotte (Haley Bennett). His life goes drastically off the rails when his mother dies of an aggressive and untreatable cancer, causing Willard to commit suicide. Arvin is shuttled off to live with his grandmother (Kristin Griffith), Uncle Earskell (David Atkinson), and their adopted daughter (and kindred orphan) Lenora (Eliza Scanlen) in a marginally larger town in West Virginia, a town which is about to get a new and unpleasant pastor (Robert Pattison)…but there are bigger problems afoot. Carl Henderson (Jason Clarke) and his wife, Sandy (Riley Keough) have been riding the backroads, picking up hitchhikers, and brutally murdering them as part of a twisted sexual fantasy. Their stories draw closer together as life in the small town twists and turns, leading to a dangerous confrontation…

Let’s start with the downside: the content. There’s a lot here that makes this not only unsuitable for a family audience, but probably not ideal for most other viewers. If you’re squeamish in any way, there’s going to be something in this movie you’re not gonna like. Suppose you’re okay with seeing a captured soldier crucified alive and left for the flies? You’re going to love the next bit - brutal torture and serial murder. You’re okay with that? How about killing the dog? How about the creepy sex assault? Frankly, if none of that makes you uncomfortable, then you make me uncomfortable. It’s designed to be unpleasant.

The upside is that the story is well written and compelling. The characters are unique and well developed (which I should hope they would be, with over two hours of run time to flesh them out), and their intertwined stories don’t always go the way you’d expect. The film also does a good job balancing its “good” and “gad” guys, highlighting that religion does not automatically qualify anyone as one or the other – rather, it is the behavior and attitude of the characters that gives them a moral dimension. None of this is as simple as it sounds in a short review – either for the actors or the screenwriters – and the work really pays off.



Another advantage is the huge star-studded cast. The cast list reads like an Oscars afterparty Who’s-Who. I expected that to drown out some of the authenticity of the film, but I was pleasantly surprised that even minor characters get a good showing. With this many named characters, it can be easy to lose track, but I didn’t have that problem here – an achievement both for the film and myself, since I’ve lived in the same house for 18 years and still don’t know my neighbors’ names.

So, while the audience is likely pretty limited on the content alone, for those with strong enough stomachs and a fair amount of patience for long-form storytelling (see that monstrous runtime again), there’s strong story. The Devil All the Time captures the strange interconnectedness of small communities, and highlights that even in a place that barely merits a name on a map, people’s lives are varied and complex – and not always in pleasant ways.

Directed by Antonio Campos. Starring Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, and Haley Bennett. Running time: 138 minutes. Theatrical release September 16, 2020. Updated

Watch the trailer for The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Devil All the Time rated R? The Devil All the Time is rated R by the MPAA

Violence: A man is shown crucified, still alive and being eaten by flies. An individual kills a dog. Someone stabs a character with the intention of resurrecting them immediately. Several individuals are shot and killed. There is a scene depicting torture leading up to a murder. Several people are severely beaten. Two individuals commit suicide, one accidentally.
Sexual Content: There are several graphic depictions of sexual acts with no explicit nudity. There are also multiple scenes showing photographs of nude men and women. There are references to prostitution. Several of the sex scenes involve disturbing power dynamics, age differences, and abuse of power.
Profanity: There are 36 uses of sexual expletives, 22 uses of scatological terms, and common use of mild profanities and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Individuals are frequently shown smoking cigarettes and drinking.

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The Devil All the Time Parents' Guide

Arvin has been through a lot in his life and lost many of the people he’s loved. How does he cope with each loss? Does his approach change? Which loss hits him the hardest? Why? Do you think Arvin

Pastor Teagardin is eager to defer blame for his behavior in any way possible. How do his claims of innocence and partial responsibility echo the stories we hear from accused sex offenders? What is his justification? How do you think he rationalizes his behaviour with his supposed religious beliefs? Do you think he genuinely believes any of the things he preaches?

Willard struggles to cope with the things he saw in the war, and that struggle affects his relationships both with his family and with religion. What are some of the benefits? What are the downsides? Who bears the brunt of that trauma after Willard dies?

The depictions of violence and sexual misconduct in this movie can be quite graphic. Do you think those depictions can be justified? How are these things portrayed? What is the context, both within the story and in real life, for these depictions? How does this movie contribute to that context or discussions of those issues?

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This film is adapted from the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock.

Home Video

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Other films that capture strange small-town experiences in the American south include Sling Blade, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Mississippi Burning. Although it’s set in Boston, Mystic River shares a similar vibe.