The Devil All the Time – Review

Rating: 18
Cast: Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan and Eliza Scanlen
Directed by Antonio Campos
Written by Donald Ray Pollock (Novel), Antonio Campos and Paulo Campos
Length: 138mins

Once again, Netflix have delivered another fan favourite with their latest release, ‘The Devil All the Time.’ Pitching massively popular actors and actresses such as Tom Holland, Eliza Scanlen and Robert Pattinson against each other, as well as solidifying the cast with more experienced actors such as Jason Clarke and Riley Keough, the film delivers an intriguing story that’s fleshed out by the diverse range of performers.

From the title to almost every scene within the story, it’s very clear that ‘The Devil All the Time’ is deeply interested in the role that Christianity plays in everyday lives, and how some can become corrupted by their belief. You’d struggle to find any character that you could label as ‘morally good’ within the film, but ‘The Devil All the Time’ definitely utilises the influence of faith over a person to explore just how manipulative a character can become. By setting the story during a period of American culture – particularly in the South – where Christianity was so popular, there are almost no characters who ever question the actions of the church. This particular idea is often what draws the most amount of intrigue to a scene, with characters being seemingly free to interpret the word of the bible to whatever suits them best. As a result of this, the story becomes an allegorical reflection of the way that those with power almost always maintain their hold over others, with the rest remaining inconsequential, no matter the form that such power takes. 

It’s undeniable that the film has an interesting story to work from, with the interwoven characters and settings allowing for a rich context for the potential story’s basis. However, the actual execution of such a layout feels as if it falls short. Despite the main plot points of the story appearing to play out not so far from one another, the film fails to create a strong connection between locations and events, and ultimately just leaves the viewer to watch places come and go as each section of the plot plays out. 

One of the greatest issues I found with the film is the constant use of narration throughout. Whilst it’s a nice idea to allow the author of the source novel to take up of the role of the omniscient spectator, the incessant inclusion of their comments often would take away any form of ambiguity or intrigue from a scene, with the characters intentions and emotions being explicitly laid out before the viewer. A traditional-style story such as ‘The Devil All the Time’ definitely suits some narration, but perhaps one that isn’t as intrusive and frequent as the one used within the film. 

‘The Devil All the Time’ is definitely a film worth seeing, and it’s great to see that larger corporations are constantly working towards releasing new and original content in collaboration with interesting creators such as Antonio Campos, especially when it looks as if we might be becoming even more reliant on these streaming services once again in the coming months.

Yesterday – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon and Ed Sheeran
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Jack Barth and Richard Curtis
Length: 116mins

In Danny Boyle’s 2019 musical comedy Himesh Patel plays Jack, a very normal guy from Lowestoft with big dreams of making it as a singer-songwriter. On evenings and weekends he plays small gigs arranged by his biggest fan and make shift manager, Ellie (Lily James) who has believed in him since hearing his rendition of ‘Wonderwall’ when they were both still in school.But then one night, at the same moment that Jack loses consciousness due to a road accident, a gigantic electrical storm hits earth and, after a brief power cut, the unimaginable happened – The Beatles are erased from history. Jack realises that he is the only person with any memory of the band and that he is the only one who remembers the Beatles songs; thus begins the journey to see if he can pass them off as his own.

An ambitious storyline to say the least, but Curtis and Barth attacked their wonderfully kookie idea and managed to create something truly unique and uplifting. Himesh Patel steps confidently into his role as the classic Richard Curtis ‘lovably hopeless’ character, though some Brits might know Patel from his role in Eastenders, the fact that he was relatively unknown was one of the elements that attracted Danny Boyle to him during casting. Lily James is just as charming as ever, the likeable force that she brings into any of her projects just makes this film more well rounded. Her character is the most relatable, arguably the most ‘normal, in the story, surrounded by either heightened characters like Rocky or Jacks parents yet left on the sidelines for the big leap to stardom and keeping her feet firmly on the ground.

The way that they made this bizarre story work is through having the actors play it really straight, allowing the comedy to flow out of the train of ridiculous circumstances and not overly pushing the funny moments. Boyle really managed to create a world where Jack believes his plan will work, a situation where the audience empathises with the normality of the focal characters and find themselves rooting for their successes.

There was always going to be some slight concern when you hear that anyone other than The Beatles is performing their songs, but Patel brings a really nice balance of his own voice and interpretation of the stories being told through them with the familiarity of the famous music. The way the songs are woven into the story and paced throughout the film helps with the progression of the timeline. Danny Boyle has commented while being interviewed that Himesh Patel sang Yesterday in one of his auditions and was one of the few actors who managed to connect with the song on a level that made it not sound like karaoke.

A film made purely for entertainment and it so committed to it’s storyline is such a breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong I love a film with all sorts of underlying themes and questions but this film is just brilliantly likeable. It’s a real family film with a whole range of humour, jam packed with wonderful songs in amongst a fully unrealistic, yet entertaining story. There’s very little with which to find in fault Yesterday, it’s absolutely my go to feel good film.

Babyteeth – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Eliza Scanlen, Ben Mendelsohn, Essie Davis and Toby Wallace
Directed by Shannon Murphy
Written by Rita Kalnejais
Length: 118mins

After the rise of A24 in recent years, and their clear success with beautifully shot coming-of-age stories that follow the lives of small town, but interesting characters, ‘Babyteeth’ takes note of such a formula and re-interprets it as something entirely different. Following the story of a young girl in the throes of chemotherapy, her fascination with a local, small-time drug dealer causes her parents to soon worry about how she’s spending her potential last days.

Led by recent star Eliza Scanlen, who’s found success in the last few years from the role of Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of ‘Little Women,’ as well as 2018’s ‘Sharp Objects’ mini-series – a thrilling drama that investigates the murders of two young girls. Despite only appearing in a few feature films, Scanlen fulfills the starring role of Milla effortlessly, and her portrayal of a young person plagued by uncertainty about her own future is nothing short of compelling. Her actions are at once both confident and full of doubt, subtly demonstrating to the viewer her desperation for some sort of certainty within her life – a certainty that no one around her can provide. This sort of characteristic is perhaps best personified in the drug dealer that she befriends – Moses. The unpredictability of his nature fulfills the need for both rebellion and care that Milla seeks from her life at that time, and once again Toby Wallace’s performance as such a chaotic character is brilliant, working excellently in line with the prescribed drug-fuelled world that surrounds Milla. Their relationship is never explicitly laid out to the viewer, and as a result, you’re drawn further into the story, and further into the experiences of these two young people.

Thematically, the film covers a wide range of topics, from drug abuse, physical and mental health and the importance of clear relationships within a family. But once again, ‘Babyteeth’ never lays out these issues in easily-digestible chunks for the viewer. Like the title connotes, the characters can only work their way through these issues a small amount at a time, and the way in which these things are broken down are all too often not how it may first appear. The narrative elements of the story rely almost entirely on the actions of the characters, and their ever-changing moods and perceptions of one another cause the film to always have something interesting to welcome into the story. In fact, the complete lack of hospital visits or therapy sessions that so often fill out films with a similar illness-based origin allows the story to explore the overall experience of a loved one battling cancer, rather than the direct side-effects of the disease on a certain character. For this reason, the film never feels like its bound to the storyline that a short description of the narrative would provide, and the characters often stray into territory that feels like a distraction from the overall arc of the film, but works completely naturally when looking into the relationship of two young people.

For a debut feature film, ‘Babyteeth’ shows that director Shannon Murphy is an exciting new voice in the world of film, and her approach to a subject is often not as simple as it may first appear. A clear focus on the characters that inhabit the world of her films, as well as the way in which each relationship is presented shows us that Murphy has a genuine interest in how the story is interpreted by the audience.

Tenet – Review

Rating: 12A
Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, Dimple Kapadia and Himesh Patel
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher Nolan
Length: 150mins

Over the course of the last two decades, Christopher Nolan’s name has become synonymous with the sort of mind-bending action-packed blockbusters that’ll leave you wondering what happened for the last two hours, and how soon you can see it again. But behind the grand spectacles and even grander scores, Nolan is capable of weaving a great amount of emotion into his films – a characteristic often left behind in the blockbuster genre. His latest release, ‘Tenet,’ certainly ticks some of his usual boxes, whilst also looking to expand on some more complex ideas, even by his own standards.

It’s very clear that Nolan has a fondness for complexity within his stories, whether that be the multi-layered dream states found throughout ‘Inception,’ the interwoven relationship between time and distance explored within his sci-fi release ‘Interstellar,’ or even the frequent memory loss that causes the narrative to become almost cyclical in his earlier – and significantly lower budget – film, ‘Memento.’ In this way, ‘Tenet’ smoothly fits into the Nolan catalogue as another exploration into an almost incomprehensible idea, with the focus this time resting on a variation of time travel that can’t be described in too much detail without giving away a few spoilers. Either way, this is another Christopher Nolan film that requires a great amount of attention throughout, and will probably still leave you wondering what just happened.

Many people have become critical of Nolan in recent years for his use of such complex plots – and for good reason. To challenge an audience is always encouraged, but to actively deliver a film that relies on a level of attention which can completely distract from any enjoyment of what is actually playing out onscreen is an issue that many have found to recur throughout his filmography. Of course, it could be argued that there should never be a limit on just how creative a filmmaker could be, and of course this is true, but with such relentless complexity, it’s expected by audiences that there will be enough exposition to give a fair chance of understanding what happens. Whilst Nolan’s found great success in this regard with earlier films such as ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar,’ while still retaining a level of ambiguity that allows for intrigue on the viewers end, ‘Tenet’ seems to regard such an entry into the film’s narrative with no more than a vague disinterest. Moments of important detail are all-too-often drowned out by the overbearing score, and those that are audible come shrouded in references to philosophies and paradoxes that will generally go over the heads of most audience members – at least on a first watch. 

However, I truly believe that no one should be limited in their creativity by what those around them will make of it, and ‘Tenet’ does deliver a more sensical narrative after a repeat watch. But a film that makes sense to its audience is no less intelligent or intriguing than one that doesn’t, and In this way ‘Tenet’ appears as if Nolan has very little regard for any sort of widespread audience enjoyment, directly contrasting the very definition of a blockbuster, which like it or not, Nolan has come to be known for.

Despite all of this, there are some great moments within the film. All-round solid performances from the star-studded cast allow us to become greater invested in their characters, but is once again let down by the complete lack of any sort of emotional development. Attempts of relationships growing on-screen and playing into the narrative, which worked so well in earlier Nolan films, are completely devoid of any such care within ‘Tenet.’ The film works brilliantly as an intriguing action film, and would be greatly accepted as such if it didn’t try so hard to be something greater, without fully realising its own potential.

There’s no denying that ‘Tenet’ is an admirable feat of what can be achieved when working with the type of budgets that Nolan now has access to, and to miss such an experience would be a shame. Of course, be safe when doing so, but if you can, I would highly suggest going to see this film in the cinema, even if it is just to relive the movie magic of the big-screen experience for the first time in a good few months.