Two wayward youths find each other in unconventional love story Bones and All
Visionary director Luca Guadagnino returns with one of the years most hotly anticipated films, Bones and All. Reuniting with his Call Me by Your Name stars Timothée Chalamet and Michael Stuhlbarg, it’s a different kind of love story, as two young outsiders take a road trip across middle America.
Maren (Taylor Russell) has lived an unsettled life, her father uplifting and moving them at a moment’s notice from one run down house to another. We quickly learn that it is for the most unusual of reasons – Maren is a cannibal. Seemingly unable to control her urge to attack and eat people, her father has had to spend her whole life covering up victims and stealing her away in the middle of the night so that she’s not caught by the cops.
Now eighteen and continuing to cause problems by attacking people, Maren’s father has left her to fend for herself. She sets out on a journey to find her mother who she has never met. Along the way discovering that she is not the only one of her kind out there, running into other cannibals including Sully (Mark Rylance,) Jake (Michael Stuhlbarg) and one she forms an immediate connection with – Lee (Chalamet.) Lee joins her on her journey, as he teaches her how to exist on the edge of society their romance begins to blossom.
It’s an interesting new entry in cannibal lore if such a thing exists, Bones and All suggesting that this could be a condition people are born with and are genuinely unable to control. A divergence but not necessarily an illness. There are, terrifyingly, cannibals absolutely everywhere in this universe. Each of them having a different moral code suggestive of an entire society, a cannibal culture that has been richly considered.
As much as Bones and All tells an interesting story about cannibalism, it’s actually the love story that makes it so electric. The relationship between Maren and Lee is a genuinely tender, lovely thing captured with stunningly beautiful cinematography from Guadagnino. These are two lost people being intensely vulnerable with each other despite the brutality they are able to inflict. Framed as if they are the sweetest thing on earth. The camera seems to capture them with an adoring gaze all of its own as we are swept up in their young romance.
Chalamet is doing brilliant work. Charming, mysterious and willing to take risks, I maintain he is the best crier in the business. However, Taylor Russell is undoubtedly the star of the show and manages to be quietly devastating as Maren. Her desperation to find connection, to understand herself and why she is the way that she is speaks to the very soul of humanity. Where her actions should make her repellent to an audience, she is undeniably magnetic. An actress portraying unmined depths, we desperately want to know her more.
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Mark Rylance will undoubtedly get attention for his role as Sully, an eccentric cannibal who introduces himself to Maren. An oddball amongst of cast of people that are already quite strange. He’s gone big on the ‘character work’ with a bizarre accent that’s a combo of Elmer Fudd and old timey country and western. He’s colourful yes and it’s frightfully well done, but his arc was possibly the one thing in the storyline that I felt was overdone.
Bones and All feels like it is forcing shocks (and I hear you saying ‘but surely that’s the point’ yes.) But I would have been perfectly satisfied with a simple story of two lovestruck young cannibals exploring their own dark histories without the need of any extra players.
Bones and All is the strangest, most inventive, most original and most beautifully captured concept I’ve seen in a while. It feels like Guadagnino at his absolute mad genius best. Marrying the grotesque body horror of his Suspiria with the tender young love story of Call Me by Your Name shouldn’t work. It shouldn’t fit. But the brilliance of all involved somehow makes them a very special package. As a final note, misophobic’s beware. The scenes of cannibalism are, well, absolutely horrifying. But it’s not the gore that’ll get you, rather the deeply disturbing visceral sound effects of the cannibals chowing down. Skin crawlingly good.
Bones and All was reviewed as part of the BFI London Film Festival. It is being released in cinemas on 23rd November 2022