Movie Review: Although it may seem like an idea and concept that would never work, Luca Guadagnino pulls off another incredibly unique movie with “Bones and All” as Taylor Russell and Timothee Chalamet feed on the flesh of others and try to survive on the fringes of society.
It took me too long to see “Bones and All” and I regret it. Some movies you just don’t get to see in theaters if you live in a small-ish town, and “Bones and All” fell victim to that. Or maybe I’m the victim. Regardless, I had to wait for it to hit VOD before I could finally check out Luca Guadagnino’s latest project. And while I felt confident that he’d be able to deliver another successful and warming movie, I didn’t have cannibal love story on my Guadagnino bingo card.
The story is adapted from the 2015 novel of the same name, written by Camille DeAngelis. It centers on two young, burgeoning cannibals Maren and Lee as they travel a country they feel left out of due to their unrelenting cravings. The story serves as a really interesting genre mashup as Guadagnino combines flavors of horror, romance, and drama to create something he’s never done and that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen been attempted.
Naturally, my favorite aspect of “Bones and All” is that every second of this Luca Guadagnino cannibal movie feels like a Luca Guadagnino cannibal movie. He doesn’t sacrifice many of his stylistic impulses that make him so unique as an auteur. It feels rich and deeply mused over from the opening title card to the closing credits, and Guadagnino finds enough love in between the horror to make this story feel authentic.
Like many of his previous films, Guadagnino casts “Bones and All” to perfection. Timothee Chalamet appears again after their collaboration with “Call Me By Your Name,” and Taylor Russell gives the best performance of her young, promising career. Both are incredibly young and vulnerable throughout the movie, and it rings quite effective in their interactions between each other and the world surrounding them.
Because after all, “Bones and All” is heavily about finding your way through society as an outsider. Luca Guadagnino loves to set his films in the fringes of society, so it isn’t very difficult to see why this source material was so interesting to him. There are chances for him to explore genre (the horror and action is absolutely riveting. I love seeing him return to experimental style clashes like he did with “Suspiria” in 2018), while still relying on the emotional weight that perfectly backs it up.
I have less context for Taylor Russell as an introspective and dynamic actress besides “Waves,” but not she’s on my radar and I’m excited to see where she goes from here. I’d take ten films by Luca Guadagnino that star these two – their connection feels completely honest and genuine and unique compared to contemporary movies in this style.
And then there’s obviously Timothee Chalamet, who I won’t quite venture to say gives the best performance of his career, but it’s close. He frequently appears in indie hits, but he rarely stars in them. They’re mostly side characters like Saoirse Ronan’s love interest in “Lady Bird,” or Jennifer Lawrence’s in “Don’t Look Up.” And while I like him in “Dune” and I’m excited to see him take on that character in the future, he’s given way more to do in “Bones and All.”
Chalamet is a generational talent, and it seems Luca Guadagnino has found the best way to use him considering his best two performances are this and “Call Me By Your Name.” I’m not sure which I’d take seeing as I’ve only screened “Bones and All” once, but there’s a chance in the future it could overtake the former. While he plays the relatively same spacy, punk kid in many of his roles, “Bones and All” allows him to get as gnarly and primal as he’s ever been. It feels real experimental while still being completely in his wheelhouse.
I have a few comments on the screenplay, but this is where my lack of the source material may be my own personal fault. Mark Rylance serves as the antagonist for “Bones and All” and I found both his performance and character to be at war with what I loved with this film. He’s the disruptor between Taylor Russell’s Maren and Timothee Chalamet’s Lee, and while I understand the importance of having him in the movie, he opts for a cooky, inhumane performance that feels tonally at odds with everything else Guadagnino sets up.
This may just be a long-winded way of saying that I found “Bones and All” to be an exceptional romance and an alright drama. Maren’s long search for her family weaves in and out of the narrative and mostly feels like a vehicle to get these two travelling across the country. It doesn’t offer much beyond a somewhat awkward confrontation between her and her mother.
Lee’s familial background gets a bit more substance, although I was mostly enamored with the fact that Anna Cobb plays his sister after starring in “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair” – a delightful surprise, I hope we see more from her. We learn about his relationship with his abusive father and what drove him away, but it rarely feels like it’s able to cut deep enough to get under your skin. While it’s still good and occasionally affecting, it’s not quite great.
But besides those few gripes, I found “Bones and All” to be incredibly powerful and sentimental. The performances are ones for the ages and Luca Guadagnino continues doing what he does best – putting vulnerable people in vulnerable situations. A sign of a really good film is that I want to go back and fill in the gaps from what I’ve missed in his past work, and needless to say, Guadagnino’s previous stuff is now on my watchlist. He’s a good filmmaker!
“Bones and All” is now available to rent on VOD!