Bones and All is an instant classic for any acquired taste.
We review the film Bones and All, which does not contain any major spoilers.
I walked into a coming-of-age romantic cannibal road film, not knowing what to expect and fully knowing my chops for anything horror tend to lean away from the genre. However, Bones and All gets off to a ferocious and effusive start that you will hardly see coming that hooked me and would not let go. A haunting and tender love story that will have you walking out a completely different person than when you sat down. As the film says, there was life before Bones and All and after Bones and All. I left thinking just one thing — Luca Guadagnino‘s adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’s novel is an instant classic.
Taylor Russell stars as Maren, a young woman who moves to a small town with her father, Frank (André Holland). Maren doesn’t have many friends but is invited to a sleepover, for which she sneaks out of the house. He sleeps on the sofa near the front door. Even stranger, Frank has his own daughter’s windows screwed shut. Maren escapes, following the power lines to her friend’s homes, per the instructions. The girls paint their nails and gossip. One of them cares enough to ask Maren about her mother not being in the picture. It becomes an oddly charged moment that is almost sensual. Maren moves in closer and slowly inches closer to her new friend. Instead of going in for an embrace, a hug, or even a kiss, she goes right to the girl’s finger and chomps down on it like it is Sunday dinner.
You see, Maren was stalking her prey. As the film progresses, this little flesh eater goes on a road trip to find her mother to try and understand her origins. Almond, the way she listens to an audiotape her father made her, attempts to explain her primal nature. In a horrific parable, she meets several people just like her along the way. A community, if you will. A clingy repairman, Sully (Mark Rylance), could smell her a half mile away and wanted to school the young girl. A good old boy from Kentucky, Jake (Michael Stewart Stuhlbarg, frighteningly good here), and an understudy of his own, Brad (David Gordon Green), take the art of cannibalism to the extreme. And, of course, there is Lee (Timothée Chalamet), a young man she feels an immediate connection with as they share, let’s say, the same interests.
Bones and All is nearly impossible to classify, but the completion is an invigorating, pulsating, visceral take on loneliness, community, and being true to oneself. Despite this being taken from the source material, it’s rare when you can call something wholly original. It helps when not only does Suspiria director Guadagnino somehow avoid sensationalism, but has his writer David Kajganich find apathetic sweet spots for the film’s characters until he finds a beautifully human and almost haunting piquancy. All along the way, each community member of flesh eaters looked desperately to connect with one another.
Though, at the heart of the matter is the doomed love story of runaways Maren and Lee, who have been given the gift of finding one another early in life, where the others have not. Unlike the others, together, they overcome their own self-loathing. It’s perhaps Chalamet’s best performance, a brooding yet tender depiction of the micro (family), mezzo (community), and macro (law enforcement) systems that are aligned against you.
And then there is Taylor Russell, who I felt was a star in the making when I saw her in a passable horror thriller, Escape Room. Her talent is evident; she can say more in a single stoic glance than most can with an entire monologue. Her vulnerable, somewhat naive, and even bullheaded turn is magnetic. Russell’s take on Maren is truly captivating and three-dimensional. A clear horror metaphor for Guadagnino’s film is these are archetypes of the disenfranchised, particularly youth. The most common young runaway in America are members of the LGBTQ+ community.
There is an uncommon power here. From a series of eye-opening supporting turns from Rylance and a stunning cameo by Your Honor‘s Michael Stuhlbarg to Trent Reznor‘s consuming score and Arseni Khachaturan‘s poetic cinematography, you cannot turn away from Bones and All’s coming-of-age horror romance. While not for the faint of heart and may seem like an acquired taste, you’ll leave the theatre with your heart racing—even a rejuvenating feeling of what movies can be.
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