Bones and All arrives in cinemas on November 25th.
Bones And All may well hold moments of gutwrenching horror, but at its core, it is a coming-of-age road trip romance that transforms the cannibal horror into something new. Based on the young adult bestseller by Camille DeAngelis, the macabre themes of Bones And All are laced with a disconcertingly tender tale of young love that transcends genre boundaries.
Maren (Taylor Russell) has just enrolled at yet another new school while her dad (André Holland) attempts to hold things together at home. Maren and her father clearly live a nomadic life, where security is limited, income sporadic and fear ever present. But what stops this father and daughter from finding peace? When a new school friend invites Maren to a sleepover, we quickly find the answer to this question.
READ MORE: LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER
Maren is a cannibal, and while trying to contain her compulsion for human flesh, moments of weakness regularly disrupt her life. Following the events at the sleepover, her dad walks away on her 18th birthday, leaving some money and a letter explaining her past and her mother’s fate. Alone, Maren heads off on a mission to find her mum and uncover the truth behind her cannibalism. As she travels with nothing but a rucksack and her dad’s letter, Maren soon discovers a secret cannibal world of ‘eaters’ and ‘feeders’ through the delicate, lost and lonely Lee (Timothée Chalamet) and the creepy and psychologically damaged Sully (Mark Rylance).
Timothée Chalamet as Lee in BONES AND ALL, directed by Luca Guadagnino, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.
As love blossoms, Lee and Maren develop a set of rules over who they eat. However, even in a world of rules, mistakes are never far away, and Lee and Maren’s wish to live free from oppression and compulsion is a dream that feels out of reach as they travel from town to town, avoiding detection while struggling to survive. Meanwhile, in Sully’s world, years of isolation and underground feeding have stripped away any moral compass he once possessed, and the young couple holds the one thing he has never been able to attain. Love.
While watching Guadagnino’s delicate yet horrifying exploration of alienation, difference, bloodlust and identity, I was reminded of two groundbreaking films. The first of these was Kathryn Bigelow’s outstanding Near Dark from 1987. In Bigelow’s film, the classic vampire horror was dovetailed with an exploration of the darkest corners of the American dream. Using a road movie template, Bigelow explored desire, the nature of family, and small-town America’s homogeneity. Likewise, Bones And All explores the people discarded by Reaganomics and the social isolation of those individuals and groups who didn’t fit the apple pie, flag-waving, church-going facade of American life.
READ MORE: BLOODLUST
The second film was George A. Romero’s Martin (1978), where a young vampire’s need to survive was coupled with a deep sense of loneliness and alienation. Martin’s need for nourishment was orchestrated through a series of carefully selected victims, his guilt coupled with a need to find intimacy in the arms of his victims. Like Martin, Bones And All is wrapped in loneliness and isolation as Lee and Maren attempt to live by an often confused moral code.
Both of these films reinvented the figure of the vampire while playing with a range of broader social issues. Bones And All does the same for the cannibal, stripping away the Hannibal Lecter of the past to uncover something far more tender and human. Like many modern vampire movies, Guadagnino celebrates gender fluidity and sexual ambiguity. Lee and Marin’s bloodlust knows no fixed gender boundaries, with the act of feeding and eating almost sexual in its intensity. At the same time, their segregation and isolation echo queer experiences as they attempt to find peace, belonging and safety in a world where oppression haunts their every move.
READ MORE: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Taylor Russell as Maren in BONES AND ALL, directed by Luca Guadagnino, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Bones And All is a film that relies heavily on its performances as it floats from town to town, and it is here that Guadagnino’s movie is truly delicious. Russell’s Maren is utterly captivating as she turns from a girl into a woman in front of our eyes, her uncertainty and fear giving way to a newfound inner strength. At the same time, Chalamet’s Lee floats like a butterfly caught in the wind, his delicate wings torn and weather-beaten by a past he is yet to accept. He is a streetwise drifter who understands how to survive but despises himself for doing so. Meanwhile, Mark Rylance’s Sully steals every scene he is in, his childlike demeanour hiding the pain and confusion of a life lived on the fringes of society – twisting him into an outwardly gentle yet inwardly ravenous monster.
READ MORE: WE ARE WHO WE ARE
The horror and beauty at the heart of Guadagnino’s complex portrait of two lost lovers is only further enhanced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ stunning score. At the same time, Arseni Khachaturan’s beautiful cinematography takes us from sweeping daytime vistas to intimate and bloody feeding sessions under a bright silver moon. But it’s Guadagnino’s visual direction and the freedom he offers his actors in moulding their characters that make him one of the most exciting directors in modern cinema. Like an intricate painting hung in a prestigious gallery, Guadagnino’s films offer something new at every viewing. Bones And All is no exception, offering a cinematic banquet of bone-chilling horror, love and loss.
Like a fine painting hung in a prestigious gallery, Guadagnino’s films offer something new at every viewing. Bones And All is no exception, offering a cinematic banquet of bone-chilling horror, love and loss.