a twisted but heartwarming cannibalistic romance – Film Stories
bones and all reunites director Luca Guadagnino with Timothée Chalamet for a film that impressively blends romance and horror.
After working together on the 2017 coming-of-age romance Call me by your name, Luca Guadagnino and Timothée Chalamet have come together to Bones and all. A film centered on two young wanderers who meet and fall in love, Guadagnino once again tackles romantic drama, but with a notable twist – the protagonists are cannibals. Cannibal horror seems (understandably) rather incompatible with a youthful romance, but bones and all is not only impressively cohesive, but really makes us take care of the main characters.
Taylor Russell plays Maren, a young woman whose cannibalism leads to social isolation. Abandoned by her father and having only a birth certificate and a tape, she embarks on a journey across the country to find her mother and, possibly, some answers to the questions she has about her condition. On her journey, she meets others like her, including Lee (Chalamet) with whom she forms a strong bond.
For a movie that strikes the sweet spot between gory cannibal horror and romantic drama, it certainly shows no restraint when the horror moments arise. Our introduction to Maren’s cannibalism comes quickly and unexpectedly, and while the gory visuals are incredibly delicate, it’s the sound design that really makes an impact. Even when the camera pulls away from flesh-eating, there are crackles and squelches that make you see the action just as good in your imagination as you would with it right in front of you.
And yet, among the (infrequent) carnage, there are genuine moments of tenderness in Bones and all. He manages to find the positive parts of two cannibalistic protagonists (which should be quite repulsive) by treating them as people first. Russell and Chalamet excel in two meaty roles (sorry) that may be subdued on the outside but hugely complex on the inside. Cannibalism in the world of film is presented as a kind of inexplicable and powerful need, difficult to control and almost impossible to categorically deny. Consequently, Maren and Lee struggle with the ethics of their human consumption, and the complicated pasts and interpersonal relationships it creates.
Then there’s the logistics of trying to live a semi-normal life while living with the urge to eat people. It’s a difficult situation, that’s for sure. Russell and Chalamet effortlessly display all that internal conflict. Russell’s performance is deepened by the desperation present in Maren’s search for answers. Lee is her opposite, where she wants to dig up the past he would like nothing more than to forget her. As a result, Chalamet is moody and enigmatic throughout, but Lee’s bond with Maren brings him to his level of sympathy.
Our unlikely warm feelings for these two are perfectly balanced by an impressive supporting cast playing gruesome supporting characters. Russell and Chalamet are good, but Mark Rylance absolutely steals his scenes. As Sully, the first person Maren meets on his road trip, he’s incredibly creepy. At first, he plays the role of an eccentric (meaning creepy) old man (with an exaggerated southern accent) with such gusto that it seems a bit silly. This commitment to the role, however, is what sets it apart. It goes from subtly threatening to overtly horrifying over the course of Bones and all, and every moment he finds himself in is memorable. It’s a good thing for Rylance, but not so good for us. If I could clean my brain and forget his character ever existed, I would. That’s how mean he is in there.
Guadagnino’s cannibalistic romance is an incredibly varied film. The central performances give Maren and Lee a lot of emotional depth, and their bond is really sweet. The romance is tender and believable, and the cannibalism is bloody and delicate. Somehow it goes pretty well together and doesn’t alienate us from the main characters as you might expect. It’s a film that I really liked, bones and all.
bones and all is in UK cinemas on November 25.
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