Horror Romance. Seems simple enough, but there are thousands of things that can go wrong, and usually do.
Absence of chemistry between the leads; indulgent editing, inane dialogue, and indifferent art direction, to name a few usual suspects.
Director Luca Guadagnino—along with screenwriter David Kajganich, and cinematographer Arseni Khachaturan—makes magic happen on all fronts in Bones and All, an absorbing and tragic love story, based on a YA novel by Camille DeAngelis.
The moods here shift like unstable weather. We’re following a narrative that’s by turns gruesome, seductive, and visually intoxicating, even when the protagonists are merely rambling down the road, which happens a fair amount during the slow-burning, 2-hour running time.
Or when they’re eating people.
Yes, we are talking about young cannibals in love, but don’t have a cow, man. Weathering the outré scenes is a small price to pay for a unique experience.
As for the subject matter, cannibalism fits snugly into the metaphor drawer under Dark Afflictions.
To say that Maren Yearly (Taylor Russell) is a little different than the other girls at her high school, would be a vicious understatement.
While playing slap and tickle with friends at a slumber party, Maren, the new girl, mistakenly bites down on some finger food, forcing she and her nervous daddy (Andre Holland) to quickly relocate—again.
Soon after, Maren awakens to find Pops has abandoned her, leaving behind a cassette tape he made to help her understand her “condition.”
With little cash and no other options, Maren heads to Minnesota in search of her mother’s relatives and hopefully a sense of her own identity.
During her journey she meets Sully (Mark Rylance), a seemingly benign drifter who identifies her as a fellow “eater,” a small cabal of carnivores that strongly prefer human hocks to anything raised on the farm.
Sully, a smiling and helpful ghoul who feeds opportunistically, is a recurring nightmare for Maren, made flesh and bloody by Rylance’s riveting portrayal.
The next “eater” she encounters is Lee (Timothee Chalamet), a wiry skate dude with a lousy dye job driving a stolen blue pickup. This one sticks, and they drive off together like Thelma and Louise on a second date.
Luca Guadagnino makes bold style and story choices throughout Bones and All, and his judgment is razor-sharp. He grants the camera enough room to shape heartbreaking tableaux of faded beauty amidst a backdrop of rural American poverty.
Like Steinbeck characters, somehow retaining their humanity in the face of crushing circumstances, Maren and Lee are devoted and determined to carve out a bloody little life for themselves, no matter the price.
While they bear some resemblance to other fugitive movie couples (Sailor and Lula in Wild At Heart, Caleb and Mae in Near Dark, Kit and Holly in Badlands), these kids are a different breed.
Hunger is present in every word and action. It’s a black current that soaks into the fabric of a strikingly gorgeous film, and the actors, especially Taylor Russell, handle that internal struggle with amazing grace.
My wife (former Theater major, I’ll have you know!) remarked that Russell is flawless, and gives one of the most naturalistic performances she’s seen in recent years.
All that’s based on a single viewing. There will be more to follow.
Bones and All is an unexpected trunk of perilous wonders, with loneliness and loss lurking among shiner coins such as love and freedom.
It’s an emotional risk to sort it all out, but worth taking if we want to get better.