- Great love story
- Terrific inspired direction
- Great chemistry between leads
- Can be gory/violent
- Topic not palatable to everyone
Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet shine in Luca Guadagnino’s poetic, cannibal love story “Bones and All”.
BONES AND ALL is a story of first love between Maren, a young woman learning how to survive on the margins of society, and Lee, an intense and disenfranchised drifter; a liberating road odyssey of two young people coming into their own, searching for identity and chasing beauty in a perilous world that cannot abide who they are.
Luca Guadagnino is an interesting filmmaker who chooses interesting stories to tell. A same-sex summer romance, a subversive remake of a beloved Italian horror film and a tense ensemble thriller inspired by both a 60s film and a 60s painting. If anything, you can’t say the man isn’t diverse in his storytelling. He’s one of the few daring directors today that is more than equipped to take on a cannibalistic love story such as “Bones and All.” The story begins in the good ol’ Reagan 80s where we meet Maren (Taylor Russell, terrific), a young girl who has cannibalistic tendencies. After a slumber party gone wrong (with great special effects on the gore side), Maren and her single dad Frank (André Holland, great) go on the run. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time (as we learn through a cassette tape Frank leaves her) that he’s had to upend his life and move to protect Maren, they’ve frequently changed identities, frequently changed schools, hoping this “urge” would subside and that Maren would become normal. Fat chance. One morning, Maren wakes to discover her father has left her, no longer being able to protect her and her cannibalistic compulsions. He leaves behind a few hundred dollars, her birth certificate and a cassette tape telling her everything she needs to know about her life.
With her certificate, Maren gains a new purpose in her life – to track down her mother. Along her journey, she meets an odd old man named Sully (Mark Rylance, terrifying) who is also a cannibal (within the film, they call themselves “eaters”). He discovers Maren by being able to “smell” her from miles away, a talent of most “eaters” (“You can smell lots of things if you know how,” he directs her in one scene). After learning a few hard truths of her new life (and participating in a gory kill), Maren continues on her journey, crossing paths with Lee (Timothée Chalamet, terrific), an “eater” she sees walking away from a “meal” with blood on his torso. Lee, sharing some past trauma of his own, decides to join Maren on her journey. Along the way, our would-be lovers test the limits of their compulsions and their love, each trying together to figure out how to survive in a world where their doomed destinies follow them everywhere they go.
There’s a poetic flow to the way Guadagnino shoots “Bones,” talking David Kajganish’s tender emotional script and bringing it to life with vitality. The landscapes on Maren and Lee’s road trip are shot beautifully, there are some terrific (and terrifying) close up shots of characters and the natural lighting in most scenes brings out the vulnerable features of Chalamet and Russell. The editing is also something to take note of – there are some very tight cutaways. Guadagnino’s style of editing shares the same romantic on-the-run vibes as Terence Malick’s “Badlands,” switching from a moment of shocking violence to a serene drive down America’s countryside. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is interesting, to say the least. It’s different from everything else they’ve done in past scores – there are some nice tender arrangements that add to the road trip/romance vibe as well as some unsettling pieces that add to the growing tension of our lovers’ journey.
Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell have strong chemistry as the leads, not a sexy, steamy chemistry but a tender, cute chemistry. Russell’s face of childlike, innocent wonder mixed with Chalamet’s heartthrob-on-the-run look works on the surface but it’s within these actor’s most emotional scenes that these actors give it their all and make for a compelling destined-yet-doomed couple. In the scenes in which he appears, Mark Rylance is by far the film’s most effective weapon. His presence makes the audience uneasy as you don’t know whether his character is going to act out in violence or ask if you wanna go for some ice cream later (neither situation would probably end up good with this guy). A character so unsettling that when Guadagnino shoots him in closeups, the audience feels as if they’re in imminent danger to be eaten by this man. Another surprise showstopper in this film is Chloë Sevigny who plays an “eater” who has gone mad, relegated to eating off parts of her own body. This is an unsettling sequence that Sevigny plays with terrifying power. There is also an interlude where Maren and Lee come across another duo of “eaters”, played by Michael Sthulbarg (great) and David Gordon Green (yes, “Halloween” DGG; not bad). It’s a strange sequence that expands the world (and rules) of this marginalized community but appears out of left field and is a tad awkward in its placement.
“Bones and All” is an emotional, well-directed horror love story. Its leads’ chemistry matches well with its director’s knack for telling fearless stories. As all actors did a fine job, Mark Rylance’s performance could very well hold “Best Supporting Actor” power in all of its creepiness. The Malick-like inspiration that shines throughout – all the way to its poetic, final tracking shot – serves as a great canvas on which a fresh, dark take of the “Lovers on the run” subgenre is borne.