Review: Bones and All
Jess Cadogan admires the visual and narrative splendour of Luca Guadagnino’s latest romantic feature Bones and All.
The year is 2015 – you’ve just finished reading the newly published novel by Camille DeAngelis, and you think to yourself, I wonder how long I’ll have to wait to see a film adaptation of this teen cannibal romance road trip coming-of-age extravaganza? We’ve all been there. As it turns out, you wouldn’t have to wait long at all.
Whilst dealing on the surface with loneliness and self-loathing (and cannibalism of course), allegories for ‘otherness’ and addiction are hard to ignore. In a film that can mean so many things however, director Luca Guadagnino and writer David Kajganich do a wonderful job of ensuring the story of Maren and Lee is never lost in the abundance of interwoven messages. The beauty of the film – shot on location across the mid-west on 35mm film – left me completely in awe of the heart wrenching romance, so much so that I found myself willing to ignore the pair’s cannibalistic tendencies in favour of understanding their struggles. Crazy, I know.
This is where you must allow yourself to see the many metaphors infused into this story to understand my reaction. Lee and Maren are outcasts – allegories for queerness are prominent throughout as the pair travel to find acceptance in the Reagan-era mid-west, with Lee himself even being explicitly sexually fluid. Parallels to addiction are also clear, for me especially seen in Maren’s anger towards the police officer who isn’t an ‘eater’ but chooses to consume human flesh recreationally. Possible ideas of neurodivergence, the impact of trauma on relationships, and further ‘otherness’ makes these two characters surprisingly sympathetic and their bond endearing.
Possible ideas of neurodivergence, the impact of trauma on relationships, and further ‘otherness’ makes these two characters surprisingly sympathetic and their bond endearing.
This is of course also thanks to the sensitive performances from both Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet. Russell has a talent for convincing you she is completely innocent, helping you almost immediately forgive her for literally eating people, and Chalamet brings the perfect amount of charm to his role, ever supporting Russell as Maren is pushed to learn very quickly about herself and the world around her. It would be a crime not to mention another stand-out performance: Mark Rylance’s Sully. At first you can’t be sure whether he’s an eccentric role model hoping to take Maren under his wing, or a creep – I’ll let you guess which. Rylance initially manages to make himself incredibly non-threatening, even encouraging a few laughs when he first speaks due to his deep Southern accent. However, he soon assumes a terrifying presence and Maren’s fear of him indicates the appropriate amount of fear to have whenever he’s around.
The beauty of this film is undeniable as Guadagnino finds the perfect balance of grotesque horror and romance. Never over-sexualising the relationship, he instead chooses to display tender moments of affection, giving the audience permission to root for the pair. Rather than the gothic fiction we’re perhaps used to with hyper-sexual supernatural beings and highly stylised backgrounds, Bones and All instead feels refreshingly human as the protagonists travel through a half-forgotten wasteland of decaying values and conditional love, yet they still manage to make a home with each other.