Bones and All, 2022.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino.
Starring Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Taylor Russell, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Gordon Green, Chloë Sevigny, André Holland, Anna Cobb, and Jake Horowitz.
Love blossoms between a young woman on the margins of society and a disenfranchised drifter as they embark on a 3,000-mile odyssey through the backroads of America. However, despite their best efforts, all roads lead back to their terrifying pasts and a final stand that will determine whether their love can survive their differences.
Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino shifts his focus from the romanticism of eating the succulent skin of a peach, to a very different kind of fleshy cuisine in Bones And All, a stomach drop coming-of-age road-trip that wants to spend as much time navel-gazing as it does tearing them out with its teeth.
Essentially Interview With A Cannibal, here we replace Louis the vampire with Taylor Russell’s Maren, as she listens to a series of audio tapes made by her father. They document the teenagers predilection for flesh from an early age, and guide her cross-country as she seeks answers about why she’d prefer to eat an actual finger over a finger-of-fudge.
Along the way she encounters others like her; there’s Lestat, aka Mark Rylance’s Sully, who schools her in the way of the ‘Eaters‘ in a similar fashion to how his BFG taught Sophie about Snozzcumbers, just with more blood and guts. And Timothée Chalamet’s Lee, another meat vampire floating on the periphery of society, getting his quick-fixes by picking off lost spectres that American rust-belt aren’t going to miss. It’s Maren’s relationships with these two which are the bloody heart of Bones And All, and how sated you are with the journey depends largely on how much you fall for her achingly cool romance with the latter.
It wants to be a Before Sunset style union of simpatico souls, whose longing for each other buoys their hand-to-mouth existence, and as a couple of good-looking kids framed against a sun-kissed skyline, it’s an unquestionably cinematic pairing. But do you believe in their romance of lingering looks, economical exchanges, and Ferris-wheel kisses? If you fell for the kind of dreamy union depicted in Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, then just replace the sweet stuff with the red stuff and you’ll have an idea of what this achieves.
Performance wise the film is impeccable; Timothée Chalamet brings a brittle vulnerability to Lee. Not just in how he uses his physicality to represent the pain of his affliction, all hung head and shadowed, but there’s a real sadness to him, a resignation that this is the way his life will be forever more. It’s his sire that impresses the most though, with Taylor Russell depicting the same introspective trauma she employed so well in Waves. An intoxicating presence to all those she passes on the road, it’s the same shimmer effect she’ll have on the watching audience, even through all of the “you’ve got red on you” moments or hand inside abdomen gore, it’s her performance with which you’re invested, rather than any Romeo & Juliet romance.
While we’re on the elements of horror sprinkled throughout, it’s nothing you haven’t seen if you’ve ever watched an episode of The Walking Dead, but it’s the way that Guadagnino sparingly hits you with them as punctuation to shifts in tone, particularly during the film’s stronger first half, that’s impressively shocking. There’s a WTF moment within the opening ten minutes that you’ll be hard-pressed to top in terms of audience inhalation of air. It’s a doozy.
As is the performance of Mark Rylance, who is probably scarier than any of the blood-letting on show. Introduced in the shadows, half-glimpsed, he has the air of Honest John from Pinocchio about him, and the same creepy intentions. It’s testament to his showy role that the film loses something whenever he’s not lurking behind a van or wandering around in dirty underpants.
Too much of Bones And All gets stuck in your teeth, and the Levi’s advert romance fails to get your blood pumping sufficiently enough to care, all despite the allure of the taboo subject and another eminently watchable performance from Taylor Russell. Medium-rare.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter