Atom Egoyan dramatizes the fallout from the notorious 1993 West Memphis murders, focusing on the grieving mother (Reese Witherspoon) of one of the murdered boys as she grows increasingly troubled by the lynch-mob fever that grips the town.
When three young boys were brutally murdered in the small community of West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993, their deaths led to shock and outrage in this tightly knit religious town. It wasn't long before three teenagers were arrested, tried, and sentenced — two of them to life imprisonment and one to death — despite the fact that they all claimed innocence. This story of wrongful conviction roiled the American justice system, brought a number of prominent movie stars and rock musicians to the defence of the three young men, and resulted in a trilogy of documentaries, Paradise Lost, that did much to keep the case in the public eye.
Atom Egoyan has revisited the story of the West Memphis Three and dramatized it for the screen in a film as compelling and disturbing as the truth itself. Egoyan is a master at telling tales about deeply misunderstood outsiders, their families and communities, and their darkest fantasies. In Devil's Knot Egoyan is completely at home sketching the small-town lives of ordinary people befuddled and angered by the senseless killing in their ostensibly safe town. Reese Witherspoon plays Pam Hobbs, mother of one of the murdered boys, whose grief and shock is palpably felt and subtly depicted. Into her life comes Ron Lax (Colin Firth, also at the Festival in The Railway Man), a private investigator for whom the sum of the case's parts doesn't quite add up, and who is driven to get at the truth.
While much of Devil's Knot focuses on
the adults embroiled in the case, Egoyan is
also highly sensitive to the young accused,
whose lives are shattered by the deaths
and who must face the scorn of the town.
The three are cast by a series of witnesses
as deviant satanic cultists, as all sense of
justice and proportion is abandoned in the
rush for a convenient scapegoat.