'Bones and All' review: A wholesome cannibalistic love story that really bites
Courtesy of MGM
“Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino’s latest romantic endeavor starring teen heartthrob Timothée Chalamet entitled “Bones and All” is not for the queasy or faint of heart. In fact, I’m not sure who it is for. What I can tell you is “Bones and All” leaves everything on the screen, literally and figuratively in one juicy, gory and grotesque metaphor on finding compassion in the toughest circumstances. It’s probably the best movie you’ll ever see about a pair of human flesh craving teenagers traveling cross country in pursuit of their next meal, and I mean that as a complement. Whatever reservations there are about the plot, audiences who show up for “Bones and All” know exactly what they’re getting, but for those few Chalamet stragglers who take a chance (“I’ll just look away at the gory parts”) might be surprised at how artful and personal the experience ends up being.
Based on Camille DeAngelis’ novel, “Bones and All” takes place in the ‘80s, long before GPS and cell phones, and it suits the wasteland vibe Guadagino strives for exceptionally well. Throw in Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s soulful score and everything clicks into place almost instantaneously. We follow Maren (Taylor Russell - magnificent) and the fallout which comes from her hankering of human limbs. The cold open doesn’t shy away from her condition whereas she ends up at a friend's house and before the sleepover squad can spin the bottle, Maren takes a sizable chunk out of someone’s finger.
Maren’s father (André Holland) has seen this situation before and hightails it to the next town before leaving for good upon the realization her condition can no longer be tamed. Alone and fragile, Maren heads for Pennsylvania to track down mom who might offer insight into her unusual cravings. En route, Maren meets Sully, a fellow “eater” played with creepy bravado by Mark Rylance, and who offers to show her the ropes, providing insight into the condition. The way the script handles folks like Maren and Sully is eerily fascinating. It doesn’t treat them as serial killers or sadistic maniacs, however, it provides context to their genetic, incurable traits and how they walk among people everyday as if they’re vampires in a secret underground society. They can literally sniff each other out of a crowd.
Not long after the awkward Sully encounter is when Maren meets Lee (Chalamet) at a drugstore and the two quickly bond over their shared affection for fine human cuisine. In other worlds, they’re soulmates. The duo hop in Lee’s worn down blue Chevy pick-up and take a road-trip across America, intermittently stopping for a bite to satisfy their hunger which leads to some unexpected detours and police encounters. They also run into fellow eaters played by Michael Stuhlbarg and David Gordon Green (yes the filmmaker!), the former giving a sinister monologue that defines the term: Bones and All.
Guadagnino captures America’s heartland quite stunningly-everything from general stores, traveling fairs, to the back roads of Virginia and Minnesota have rarely looked this good. All as Chalamet and Russell stay in lockstep, desperately finding a way to survive in a cutthroat world. The two manage to turn the bloodshed of their situation into a believable romance that grows and blossoms as they hit the highs and lows of uncovering bitter truths about the past. Rylance is the icing on the cake as the primary antagonist who can’t seem to let Maren slip away from his grasp.
“Bones and All” hits a roadblock in the film's final, blood curling sequence, but everything up until that point is quite blissful and serene, aside from the occasional chomping of course, that I’ll let it slide. Obviously, this is a different type of relationship than depicted in “Call Me By Your Name” but Guadagino knows the key ingredients to any successful on-screen affair starts with the leads and Chalamet and Russell have the “it” factor in stride. But maybe don’t watch the movie with a full stomach.
BONES AND ALL is now playing in theaters.