The Reel Review
Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Far From Home) stars in this Netflix psychological thriller about a young man devoted to protecting those he loves from an unending barrage of sinister characters in a corrupt, small backwater town in post-WWII America. It is an adaptation of the 2011 novel from Donald Ray Pollack, who also serves as the film’s narrator.
Director Antonio Campos’ period drama, set over multiple generations and filmed on 35mm film, features a darker, less nostalgic slice of Americana. It is a captivating, well laid out story that brutally showcases the disastrous effects of trauma and a blind devotion to religion. The ambitious film contains SO MUCH MISERY AND VIOLENCE that it may be a bit depressing for some viewers, but it is well done. Sadly, the second half of the film fails to fully match the fascination of the first, instead devolving into a more predictable, violence-laden tale of revenge, albeit with a satisfying ending.
Tom Holland leads a superb ensemble cast as the one character smartly questioning the motives of others, with notable performances from Bill Skarsgård (It), Harry Melling (the Harry Potter films, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Eliza Scanlen (Little Women), Jason Clarke, Riley Keough (The Lodge) and Kristin Griffith. The weakest links? Some scant story elements and characters that feel crammed into the two hour and 17 minute running time, and Robert Pattinson’s over-the-top portrait as the lusty, manipulative preacher, which feels a bit campy and out of place compared to the film’s more serious tone.
• Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson co-starred in 2016’s The Lost City of Z.
• Robert Pattinson created his own Southern dialect, hiding his accent from everyone, including director Antonio Campos, until the first day of filming.
• Chris Evans was originally slated to play the corrupt policeman, but due to a scheduling conflict with Defending Jacob, recommended his friend and Marvel Universe castmate Sebastian Stan.