Bones and All

Bones and All

2022, R, 130 min. Directed by Luca Guadagnino. Starring Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell, Mark Rylance, Jessica Harper, Michael Stuhlbarg, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon Green, André Holland, Anna Cobb.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 18, 2022

A warning to viewers who come to Bones and All hungry to see the latest arthouse horror movie: Yes, this is a movie about cannibals; yes, there will be blood – lots and lots of it; and yes, there are horrors within. Yet Bones and All is not strictly a horror film. Given that the film’s director (Luca Guadagnino) and writer (David Kajganich, who adapted from a book by Camille DeAngelis) were previously responsible for the recent remake of Suspiria, the witchy ballet-academy phantasmagoria, the expectation for more arthouse horror seems logical. But, be prepared. As grisly and disturbing as Bones and All is, the film strikes me more as a romance, a coming-of-age movie, and/or a lovers-on-the-run chronicle. Dark and bloody, definitely; but also, at times, sweet and hopeful.

Eighteen-year-old Maren (Russell, Waves) is a newcomer at her high school. When a classmate invites her to a slumber party, she is eager to attend, so eager that she sneaks away from her bedroom, whose door is ominously padlocked every night by her father (Holland). Before this lengthy “preamble” is over, we come face to face with Maren’s shocking cannibalistic impulses and instantly know why she and her father lead such itinerant lives. Dad, however, has had enough and when Maren awakens in a new place she discovers her father has skedaddled and left her with only a little cash, her birth certificate, and an audio cassette that helps fill in her backstory. Maren buys a bus ticket with the cash and heads for Minnesota, where her birth certificate says she was born and where she hopes her mother might still live.

While waiting for a bus transfer, Maren is discovered by Sully (Rylance, in an award-worthy performance), a strange, much older man who wears an unnervingly raffish feather in his hat followed by an odd braid of hair down his back. As off-putting as Sully is, Maren is intrigued because he is the first flesh-eater besides herself that she has ever encountered. He teaches her things about her urges and how to cope with them. She flees in the morning and is soon found by Lee (Chalamet), a fine, young cannibal who gives off an emaciated, heroin-chic vibe. (Any fans who come to Bones and All to see sexy Chalamet suck on more peaches had better accept that this time the juices are arterial gushers.) The two hit the road like the hunted, gun-crazy lovers in Badlands, Thieves Like Us, and, well, Gun Crazy.

Maren and Lee meet several more dangerous weirdos along the way, each ghoul out-creeping the ones that came before. Maren learns more about her impulses and how to navigate her way through the world from the more experienced Lee. They even have a brief idyll of “normalcy,” but that, too, is not destined to last. For Guadagnino’s first American-made film, cinematographer Arseni Khachaturan captures America’s heartland in warm glows that contrast with the lurid flesh-eating. (Unusually, Khachaturan’s landscapes include all the power lines and smokestacks that most cinematographers exclude, one of the features I love most in Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor comics.)

“Can love abide a monster?” asks the movie’s refrain. Personally, I don’t know the answer. However, I do know that I love these two young monsters in love.

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Bones and All, Luca Guadagnino, Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell, Mark Rylance, Jessica Harper, Michael Stuhlbarg, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon Green, André Holland, Anna Cobb

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