Filmmaker Luca Guadagnino is a master of quiet dramatic storytelling that slowly but surely finds a way to latch on to the viewer. A bigger splash, call me by your nameand sigh are just a few examples of his ability to weave big theoretical questions into risky narratives that radically avoid convention. bones and all does not reach the heights of his most important works, but continues to maneuver worthwhile questions with inspired artistry.
Maren (Taylor Russell) is a young woman who lives alone with her father (André Holland). Due to their unusual appetite for human flesh, which they cannot control, they learn to live with their heads down. However, one day he suddenly takes off and never returns, leaving her as the “Eater” to eke out a living and her only choice is to advance and survive.
Along the way, Maren meets another eater named Lee (Timothée Chalamet), who is also traveling alone. They develop a deep bond as they live on the fringes of society and increasingly trust each other. The more Maren and Lee fall in love with each other, the more they begin to question their existence and their way of life.
Maren and her father strive for normality in their lives, despite their sometimes cruel consumerism. bones and all finds her at the end of the seemingly never-ending cycle of changing names and places of residence each time she surrenders to human flesh. Maren longs to make more friends at school, but a sleepover gone wrong leaves her without a father or mother, whose identities he has kept secret from her all her life. With nowhere else to go and no one to rely on, she focuses on tracking down her mother to find love and an understanding of why she is the way she is.
bones and all tells Maren’s story about a tape recorder her father left her and explains why he left and the memories of her journey that she cannot remember. As a result, it has no meaning of home or any real concept of family. Maren crosses paths with an intimidating and sinister man named Sully (Mark Rylance), who teaches her how to use her keen senses to smell other eaters and potential human meals. He seems to offer her comfort, companionship, and mentorship, but something about him isn’t quite right, aside from the fact that he’s a cannibal.
Lee introduces a different type of eater into Maren’s life as she feels comfortable around him. Their developing romance gives them a whole new meaning to the word home, which is where they are together. Lee has a firmer understanding of the importance of family, but he always keeps her at arm’s length. The couple is ashamed of how others look at them and are always running from something, including themselves. bones and all tells the story of two misfits, constantly on the run from trauma, who meet other ominous travelers who share the same goal of survival and sustenance.
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Guadagnino’s foray into the grotesque was by no means a one-off sigh. He doesn’t hold back on his road trip cannibal flick, bringing the full power of his audio department to bring gnarly sound effects through the film’s darkest moments. It addresses what constitutes a monster, both literally and figuratively. The screenplay by David Kajganich challenges the viewer to take the good with the bad. Despite their cannibalistic urges, it would be a mistake to dismiss the humanity within and beyond.
Russell shows her depth as a performer, letting the emotion flow on her face rather than her words. Her sadness and sense of abandonment can be felt in every frame, but audiences see moments of joy in her eyes as she interacts with Lee. Meanwhile, Chalamet is just as subtle in his performance, delivering the dynamic emotions audiences are used to seeing him at just the right moments. Meanwhile, Rylance’s Sully is on a completely different plane of existence. He’s combative, crazy, and incredibly scary, which sets off the film’s most tense moments.
Kajganich’s screenplay and Guadagnino’s direction successfully address the loneliness of those who live on the fringes of our society. However, there are two components to this bones and all – Part cannibal thriller and part romantic coming-of-age road trip. Rather than wed them into one cohesive image, they often step on each other’s toes. Inherent LGBTQ themes run deep, some blossoming beautifully while others feel dodgy. Contrary to Guadagnino’s approach call me by your name, the romance doesn’t get the room to breathe here, which greatly diminishes its emotional payoff. Meanwhile, the thriller component feels undercooked.
That’s not to say there aren’t moments when both components are individually successful. Maren and Lee share some remarkably tender moments that really resonate with the film’s core themes. Additionally, some of the suspicious characters they encounter along the way create deeply unsettling moments that will leave you squirming.
bones and all approaches his wandering social outcasts with a sense of calm and ferocity in one movement. Still, it has a coldness that keeps the viewer at a distance and never quite manages to reach the emotional heights it aims to reach. It poses intriguing sociological questions about surviving as an outcast in American society.
bones and all chews in select theaters on November 18th and everywhere on November 23rd.