Bones and All
Starring Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell, Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland
Luca Guadagnino may be most well-known for his critically acclaimed adaptation of André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name, but his work has spanned many genres and subjects. His twisty psychological drama A Bigger Splash starred Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes as former lovers with unfinished business on a gorgeous Italian holiday. His limited series We Are Who We Are explored modern youth culture and continued to highlight his affinity for bold coming-of-age stories. His reimagining of Dario Argento’s 1977 Giallo classic Suspiria ditched the vibrant colors that defined the original in favor of a much bleaker and haunting visual theme. In his Suspiria, audiences were given the opportunity to see for the first time how deftly Guadagnino straddled the line between beauty and horror, a line he would explore again with Bones and All.
At the start of Bones and All, Maren (Taylor Russell) is a seemingly ordinary high-school student. We meet her as she tries to acclimate to her new school and seeks friendship with some of her female peers. Maren’s father (André Holland) is very protective of her and does not believe it wise for her to spend time with these new classmates outside of school. This judgment proves to be a solid one as Maren sneaks out and the night turns violent. Her father’s reaction to this event sends Maren on an odyssey all over the country seeking answers and understanding. Soon after, she meets Sully (Mark Rylance), a lonely and eccentric man whose immediate feeling of connection and borderline obsession with her over their shared condition makes her deeply uncomfortable and wary of finding people like herself. Eventually, she meets Lee (Timothée Chalamet) and upon discovering their alikeness, together they set out to continue Maren’s journey and fall in love along the way. They encounter other “eaters” including a threatening duo played by Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water) and David Gordon Green (director of Halloween Ends). Maren and Lee’s quest forces them to consider how far they are willing to go to feed or suppress their appetite and their true nature.
Despite the sometimes-gruesome imagery, there is tenderness and beauty throughout the film. Bones and All is equally beautiful and brutal.
How does one make cannibalism romantic? Combining horror and romance is hardly a new idea. Still, it seems an incredibly difficult task to take a concept so deeply unsavory and apply it to characters with whom an audience can connect. And yet, Luca Guadagnino and screenwriter David Kajganich (who worked previously with Guadagnino on A Bigger Splash and Suspiria) have managed to strike a near-perfect balance between the monstrosity of the situation and the humanity of these two leading characters. Cannibalism is not the thing being romanticized, it is merely the point of connection that bonds Maren and Lee. Bones and All features outstanding performances from the entire cast. Taylor Russell (following up an understated but powerful performance in Waves) is brilliant and hopefully, this film will do for her what Call Me By Your Name did for her co-star. Speaking of Timothée Chalamet, this may be among his best performances yet. Lee is haunted and Chalamet brings a level of pathos that many actors his age might not have been able to pull off. Mark Rylance’s performance is strange, and his affected accent is often off-putting (in the best way possible) but unlike some of the roles he has played in the last few years, Sully never feels like a caricature. Kajganich’s script is thought-provoking, and the story is never predictable. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ musical score for the film is among the best of the year.
Bones and All is not for the faint-hearted or those with sensitive stomachs. It has more than a fair share of blood and does not hold back in its depiction of cannibalism. Despite the sometimes-gruesome imagery, there is tenderness and beauty throughout the film. It is equally beautiful and brutal. At its core, this is a road trip romance. Luca Guadagnino’s unique directing style continues to become more identifiable, the chemistry between Russell and Chalamet is palpable, and their characterizations are well-thought-out. The film lags a bit toward the middle but picks up soon afterward.
It may be too artsy and slow for some audiences, but those who are willing to engage with this brutal and sometimes bizarre love story are in for a treat.