BONES AND ALL is directed by Luca Guadagnino. It stars Taylor Russell, Timothee Chalamet, and Mark Rylance. It’s based on a novel by Camille DeAngelis.
In the American Midwest in the 1980s, young Maren finds herself on the run when a strange urge to bite and eat people manifests itself in increasingly disturbing ways. She eventually begins crossing paths with other people of her kind, including Lee, who similarly comes from a broken home with a disturbing past. The two set out on the road together, as Maren looks to investigate the mystery of her origin, and potentially begin a new life.
In recent years, Luca Guadagnino has made a name for himself in many big ways. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME in 2017 was a critically acclaimed masterpiece, and he’s been in the public spotlight with numerous projects ever since, even if his attempt at remaking Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA was a bit of a misfire. The director once again set out to make a unique and visually stunning film with BONES AND ALL, this time around focusing on two young cannibals on the road. The material is certainly unique, and what unfolds on screen must be seen to be believed. Despite its at-times murderous and violent content, it’s a surprisingly down-to-earth story with likable and relatable characters.
Guadagnino knows how to build a world, and BONES AND ALL shows that beautifully. It’s a great picture of 1980s American Midwest life in many regards, with the obvious twists. The classic cars, references and featuring of classic pop-rock music, and nary a smartphone in sight makes it a unique and nostalgic setting. From small towns to swimming holes, from general stores to mental hospitals, it’s a unique and intriguing road movie.
Casting is top-notch with the two leads being the beautiful young Taylor Russell, who beautifully straddles the line between innocence and an insatiable hunger for flesh, and Timothee Chalamet (who’d previously been in Guadagnino’s CALL ME BY YOUR NAME) makes for an interesting partner and foil to our leading lady. More experienced and aware of what he is, seeing the relationship between the two unfold is quite interesting, even if it’s largely ambiguous in the grand scheme of things. They make for some great on-screen interaction.
Even the supporting cast fares just as well, including an underused Mark Rylance as a man living a similar life to our heroes, but on his own terms. Every time this guy is on screen, he’s suitably creepy and makes an impact. Rylance is seriously underrated as an actor, and I truly believe there’s nothing this guy can’t play. It’s certainly a 180 from his portrayal of Maurice Flitcroft in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN earlier this year, yet both are roles this gentleman portrays excellently.
What’s truly surprising about Guadagnino’s film is that it emphasizes humanity and drama over acts of violence. For being a movie about cannibalistic lovers of sorts, there are surprisingly few scenes of violence in the movie, although when one of those scenes does arrive, it comes with a vengeance. The film can go from peaceful to brutal without warning, yet it never loses sight of its most important element – the characters. When’s the last time you could say that about a movie revolving around cannibals?
While I’m admittedly still, for lack of a better way of putting it, digesting the film, I’m happy to say that the flaws in the film are few and far between. It’s a little too long at times and the pacing isn’t always the best, and one intense scene of violence near the end as admittedly a bit too much, considering the movie had more-or-less has a positive resolution and closure already by that time. Had the movie been about 20 minutes shorter and not featured the conclusion we ultimately got, I’d probably be praising it more. Yet this is still a fantastic movie despite that.
BONES AND ALL is a surprising film in many regards, though it’s certainly not for the squeamish. The performances from Chalamet, Russell, and the underused Rylance are absolutely fantastic, and it’s a great looking film with plenty of nostalgic Americana throughout. Despite its at-times overly violent content, it remains a human story, and that’s its greatest strength. A highly recommended film!