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The One Scene In The Devil All The Time That Makes Us Love Tom Holland Even More

There aren't many heroes in The Devil All the Time, but if you look hard, you'll find at least one. Young Arvin Russell, played by Tom Holland, is everything that the other residents of Cold Creek, West Virginia and Knockemstiff, Ohio are not. He's kind and brave, always ready to stick up for others, and never backs down from a fight.

In other words, he's the perfect character for Holland to play. Just look at Holland's first scene in the movie, which comes about 45 minutes into the film. Eight years after a tragic and bizarre set of circumstances left Arvin an orphan and forced him to move in with his grandmother, Emma, his great-uncle, Erskell, and his stepsister, Lenora, Arvin celebrates his birthday. It's a humble affair. The only guests are Arvin's family, and he only receives a single present: his father's old gun, a Luger he took from a dead German soldier during the Second World War.

On the surface, it's a sweet scene, but like everything in The Devil All the Time, there's much more lurking just under the surface. Not only is this sequence full of grim portents about the Russell family's future, but it's the first time we see Arvin fully grown and get a taste of the man he's become. Frankly, it's all we need. Holland's performance in this scene tells the audience everything they need to know about Arvin, plays on Holland's natural strengths, and shows just how much he's grown as an actor. It would be a star-making moment, if, y'know, Holland wasn't already a star.

It's his innate goodness

As an actor, Tom Holland has a very specific and unique ability. Whether he's on a stage playing Billy Elliot, starring in a $200 million Hollywood blockbuster, or joking around on a late night talk show, you can't help but get the sense that he's deeply, inherently kind. That's what makes him so great as the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Spider-Man. No matter how many obstacles the world puts in Peter Parker's way, the young superhero never loses his faith in humanity or his ability to do the right thing, no matter what the cost.

In The Devil All the Time, Arvin is the same way. This scene proves it. Look at the party his family throws for him. There's not much to the cake that Emma bakes. It's lumpy and unfrosted. It doesn't even have real birthday candles. Arvin's sole present is a hand-me-down from a father that Arvin had a complicated relationship with, a relic of a brutal war, and a very odd gift for a teenager.

But Arvin doesn't complain. In fact, he welcomes all of it. When he sees the cake, as modest as it is, he smiles. Before blowing out his lone candle, he gives his wish real thought, proving that his traumatic childhood hasn't robbed him of all his innocence. Despite the baggage attached to the gun, he seems genuinely thankful to Erskell for giving it to him. When Lenora leans in for a hug, Arvin welcomes it, marking a stark contrast to 9-year-old Arvin's passive embrace of Emma in the scene before.

Arvin's later actions go even further in proving his genuine nature, but this scene sets the stage. Throughout The Devil All the Time, you never have any doubt that Arvin is a good person. That's Holland's gift, through and through.

It's how he acknowledges the weight of his responsibilities

If you're familiar with Tom Holland's most famous role, you're probably also familiar with his catchphrase: "With great power there must also come great responsibility." Well, that's not just advice that Spidey lives by.

In many ways, that's Arvin's philosophy, too. Young Arvin, played by Michael Banks Repeta, is mostly reactive. Things happen to him, but he doesn't drive the action. After the birthday party, that changes. Lenora is sweet but naive, and Emma and Erskell aren't getting any younger. When Arvin blows out that candle, he effectively becomes the man of the house. His family is now under his protection.

He knows it, too. Again, check out how long Arvin takes to blow out his candles. More importantly, note the studied, respectful glance he gives his father's gun before he shoves it back into his box. This isn't a child who's ignoring the responsibilities he's been giving. This is a young man who's just been given the power to kill, and he's going to use it wisely.

This plays out as the film continues. It's Arvin who protects Lenora from bullies. It's Arvin who consoles Emma when Reverend Teagardin humiliates her, and when things get really bad, it's Arvin who sacrifices his happiness to protect his loved ones. Many of Arvin's actions later in The Devil All the Time are shocking, but they're all set up by this scene. Really, you should've seen 'em all coming.

It's his uncharacteristically quiet performance

All that being said, Arvin Russell isn't Peter Parker. In fact, he's not like any character that Holland has played before. When he's on screen, Holland is often very high energy, and he's usually quite chatty. In fact, Holland's first feature film role was in the anime movie Arrietty, in which he contributed to the English-language dub, and over the past couple of years he's lent his vocal talents to animated characters in films like Spies in Disguise, Onward, and Dolittle.

But unlike those characters, Arvin doesn't quip. He doesn't banter. In fact, much of the time, he doesn't say anything at all. Again, let's use the birthday party scene as an example. During the celebration, Holland only has two real lines. He thanks Erskell for the gun, and he notes that he doesn't own anything else that belonged to Willard. And yet not only does Holland carry the scene, but he's able to convey so much crucial information about Arvin through his body language alone that he really doesn't need to speak at all.

Given his past roles, that's not something anyone would've necessarily expected from Holland, but with his talent, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise either. Just like Arvin is growing older, this scene proves that Holland is maturing as an actor, and has plenty of untapped potential. With that in mind, we can't wait to see what he does next.

It's how he's grown up before our eyes

It's hard to believe, but Captain America: Civil War only came out four years ago. In that time, so much has changed. In less than half of a decade, Tom Holland has gone from a reliable supporting player to one of Hollywood's most in-demand leading men. He's anchoring multiple big-name franchises, and appearing in everything from kids' flicks to crime thrillers and trippy sci-fi dramas.

Holland's quick rise to fame happened in the public eye. We've seen him grow and change, and it's hard not to think about how far the actor has come while watching this film. The Devil All the Time is significantly darker than anything Holland has done before, and it directly tackles mature themes that his previous blockbusters only hinted at. It's a challenging movie, and Arvin could only have been played by a confident, experienced actor. Naturally, Holland nails it.

As such, there's something extra poignant about seeing Arvin celebrate such a momentous anniversary onscreen. Like Holland himself, Arvin has grown into a fairly spectacular young man, and the birthday scene reflects many of the audience's feelings about Holland himself. Once they see The Devil All the Time, his legions of fans are going to be very, very proud.