“Bones and All” stars Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell
Director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) is back at it with another coming of age film about star crossed lovers. In case you haven't heard, Bones and All is the story of Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timothée Chalamet).
One night, Maren sneaks out of the home she shares with her overprotective father to join some girlfriends at a sleepover. But while she’s there and as the girls are casually talking about nail polish, Maren puts the finger of her friend inside her mouth—and bites down hard. There’s blood gushing and girls screaming, and Maren runs away.
When Maren’s father leaves her—because he doesn’t know how to help her anymore—she goes on a journey to find her mother. At a bus stop, she meets Sully (Mark Rylance), who quite literally sniffed her out and correspondingly teaches her how to be a cannibal in his own way (read: creepily and in tighty-whities). After a meal, she goes back on her journey.
But then Maren runs into Lee, him bloody from killing (read: eating) an asshole he met at a convenience store. Lee steals the dead man’s truck and the two of them start their cannibalistic love story.
Here’s the thing about that though: You’d think that watching humans eat humans would be enough to turn viewers off, but it isn’t and it doesn’t. Once you get past that first finger-eating incident (and Sully), the blood and gore becomes sort of a nuisance as Maren and Lee start to fall in love. Instead of being enveloped in a feeling of disgust, you’re whisked away in the romance of two on-the-run teenagers just trying to survive. They didn’t choose to be the way they are, to have to nibble on flesh and bone to keep going, for Maren to have been abandoned by her family or for Lee to have done the unthinkable in order to protect his.
They’re just kids driving down long roads, stopping where and when they can, and opening up their souls to each other. For a good chunk of the movie, you almost forget the gory elephant in the room.
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But just when you think everything is finally great, Sully makes another creepy appearance. He’s insulted that Maren left him, didn’t take to his way of living and fell in love with someone. And it’s in that instance—with Sully on top of Maren after he snuck into the bedroom she shares with Lee—that the real fear kicks in. Watching that scene made me realize that the cannibalistic theme of Bones and All is not what makes it a pseudo-horror.
Sully’s a cannibal, but that’s not what makes him a monster. Maren and Lee are cannibals, too, but it’s a quirk they learn to live with and we as an audience learn to accept. And it’s great that we’re led to see past this, but it’s horrible, too. Because for all the disgust, love and sympathy we learn to give its characters in its 130-minute run, Bones and All makes sure we see past a very clear flaw.
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Bones and All is an experience worth the cost of a theater ticket (or two—it is a romance, after all). But maybe stick to clear drinks and non-chewy food for this one.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver