Movie reviews: Bill and Ted are back — and violent revenge in The Devil All the Time

Movie reviews: Bill and Ted are back — and violent revenge in The Devil All the Time

Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) stars Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves

Nocturnal ****

The Devil All the Time ****

Bill and Ted Face the Music ***

 Nocturnal (15A) stars Cosmo Jarvis as Pete, a 30-something handyman who seems a harmless knuckledragger until he starts taking an interest in Laurie (Lauren Coe), a pupil at the school where he’s currently working.

Lauren Coe and Cosmo Jarvis in Nocturnal (2019)
Lauren Coe and Cosmo Jarvis in Nocturnal (2019)

Recently moved to the north-east of England with her mum, Jean (Sadie Frost), the teenaged Lauren is lonely and going through something of a rebellious phase — so when Pete suggests they meet up some evening, just to go for a drive, Lauren agrees. 

A relationship of sorts begins — Pete and Lauren are both loners, and both are ostracised by their peers — but Nathalie Biancheri’s film, from Olivia Waring’s screenplay, offers a very different kind of relationship than we expect when Pete first starts obsessing about Lauren. 

Cosmo Jarvis made his breakthrough as a hulking bruiser in last year’s Calm with Horses, and here seems set to reprise the same kind of role: Pete is an inarticulate, heavily muscled man-child who appears to loom over the much younger Lauren and threaten her by his very presence. B

ut even if it’s the frisson of danger that piqued Lauren’s interest in the first place, it’s Pete’s gauche tenderness that more fully attracts her, and it’s only in retrospect, after a number of twists have turned our understanding of their relationship inside-out, that we appreciate the irony of Lauren’s feelings for the older man. 

Both of the central actors are excellent here, and while Cosmo Jarvis is in mesmerising form as the crude but sensitive Pete, Lauren Coe holds her own as a fiery young woman determined to make her own way in life, even if doing so means deliberately making bad decisions. 

Emotionally tense and psychologically complex, Nocturnal is a gripping drama and a very impressive feature-length debut from Nathalie Biancheri. 

(cinema release)

 

The Devil All the Time (16s) opens in West Virginia in the late 1950s, with WWII veteran Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård) turning to God in despair when his wife Charlotte (Haley Bennett) contracts cancer. Watching on is their young son Arvin (Michael Banks Repeta), who quickly learns that life is tough and must be met with flailing fists — a lesson that serves him well when Arvin (now played by Tom Holland) grows up in the hardscrabble town of Knockemstiff and tries to protect his pious, unworldly sister Lenora (Eliza Scanlen) from the bullies and predators who stalk her.

The Devil All the Time stars Tom Holland
The Devil All the Time stars Tom Holland

Adapted from Donald Ray Pollock’s novel by Paulo and Antonio Campos, with Antonio directing, The Devil All the Time is a bleak slice of hillbilly noir, albeit one with a more meandering narrative than the more traditional noir tends to offer. 

That’s partly to do with how the story’s relationships overlap: Carl (Jason Clarke) and Sandy (Riley Keough) are a pair of serial killers who trawl the backroads of West Virginia for hitchhikers; Sandy is the sister of the corrupt local sheriff Lee Bodecker (Sebastian Stan); the newly arrived preacher in town, Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson), reveals himself as Lenora’s saviour, albeit one who offers consolation at a very high price. 

The Devil All The Time (L-R) Bill Skarsgård as Willard Russell, Michael Banks Repeta as Arvin Russell (9 Years Old). Photo Cr. Glen Wilson/Netflix © 2020
The Devil All The Time (L-R) Bill Skarsgård as Willard Russell, Michael Banks Repeta as Arvin Russell (9 Years Old). Photo Cr. Glen Wilson/Netflix © 2020

Indeed, the Campos brothers keep so many plates spinning that it’s a miracle it all works, but work it does, delivering not only the downbeat tone and inevitable conclusion we expect of noir, but also an absorbing treatise on religious fanaticism. 

It’s a superb ensemble cast (with Donald Ray Pollock himself providing the voiceover narration), but Tom Holland shines brightest with his portrayal of a young man driven to violent revenge. 

(Netflix)

 

Decades on from not quite fulfilling their destiny of uniting the entire human race with cheesy rock music, Bill and Ted Face the Music (PG) when they are summoned to the future once more and informed that they have less than 24 hours to save the planet by writing the most bodacious rock song ever. 

Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) stars Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves
Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) stars Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves

Realising their limitations, the middle-aged Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) hop into their time-travelling phone-box to track down their future selves, from whom they plan to steal the song they’re currently incapable of writing. 

Meanwhile, their music-obsessed teenage daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) also take off on a time-travelling odyssey, assembling the ultimate band (Jimi Hendrix, Mozart and Louis Armstrong, with Death guesting on bass).

Dean Parisot’s movie starts off in promising fashion, with the Wyld Stallions performing their latest epic track (which features theremins and bagpipes) for an audience of family and friends. 

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter seem to enjoy the opportunity to reprise their roles, happy to mock their roles of clueless middle-aged men rockin’ out and employing the argot of addled surfers. 

That said, fresh jokes are conspicuous by their absence; this one is strictly for Bill & Ted completists. 

(cinema release)

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