‘Bones and All’ is the new Luca Guadagnino film, he is once again reuniting with Timothée Chalamet for a very different movie this time around. A coming-of-age romance set in the eighties about two outcasts trying to make their way in this harsh world. The thing is, they’re also cannibals and this is probably the most disgusting movie I’ve ever seen. Yes, ‘Bones and All’ quite literally means eating someone, bones and all. I had known about this movie for quite a while and was really excited to watch it. However, it dawned on me as I sat down to watch it that I am about to watch a cannibal movie and all of a sudden, I got slightly nervous. All was well until the first act is committed, from then on I would only experience my time watching this movie as unsettling, moving and thought-provoking. This is a movie that will stay with me for a while and I cannot say I have felt that a lot this year, even with such great movies. There is something about ‘Bones and All’ that draws you in and leaves you feeling devastated after spending two hours with these characters and that’s ironically the humanity that Guadagnino expertly portrays.
spoilers for ‘Bones and All’ are featured in this review.
‘Bones and All’ is a true escape in the sense that for those two hours, you are transported to wherever Lee and Maren are. I don’t think Guadagnino had any intention in making the audience choose any side, he moreso portrays whatever is happening in all of its tenderness, and horrific nature and lets the audience feel on its own. It never suggests to the audience how they should feel about a certain event in the movie or a character’s actions. From the first bite to the last, the movie tries to make its case as subtly as possible as to why cannibalism works for this specific story, it’s not there for shock value, it all clicks into place with the tragic ending. It’s not a gimmick the movie uses, in fact, it’s used quite sparingly and with great effect. When Maren bites her friend’s finger off in the opening sequence, I felt nauseous and awful and I kept that with me for a good chunk of the movie. Guadagnino captured the horror so well in that scene that even listening to the tapes that Maren’s father left, explaining how she grew up like this and the things she would do, it would elicit genuine anxiety and uneasiness. To do that with just words is pretty impressive, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that way before. I was in awe of the movie and its ability to make me feel awful but at the same time I was genuinely scared, it was great! Another thing this movie got me to do that no other movie has been able to is show something so awful that I had to look away. I watched this in theatres and having that inescapable environment match the movie, it was just awful in the best way. I turned my head away and shut my eyes, I never do that.
There was also this conversation about the cannibalism possibly symbolizing other differentiating elements like sexuality, gender and identity and while it can be applied, I don’t think it’s a solid enough comparison for it to hold up. I wouldn’t say that’s what the movie set out to do, although it was quite interesting getting to see Chalamet being a raging bisexual. Jokes aside, I think Guadagnino did want to touch the hearts of the youth with this movie and despite Lee and Maren being cannibals, there is a lot within their characters that young people can attach onto. The concept of two outcasts fleeing their homes, going on the run and escaping their past lives to be these fiercely independent and wild souls only to realize that it can’t last, it’s relatable. Having Maren take one look at her mother who is the reason why she is an Eater and then deciding for herself that she doesn’t want to be that person anymore, it’s something that can be easily understood. The scene in the third act with Lee and Maren on the grass in the open wind being the most vulnerable they’ve ever been with each other as Lee opens up about his past, the pain and ache in his voice and the utter heartbreak the entire scene carried was palpable. It was an honest moment in time for Chalamet and Russell, even if they were acting it was just a genuine bond and you could see that on screen. One of the best acted scene of the year in my opinion. In fact, having their romance be so integral to the story made the ending hit all the more effectively. Up until that point, I was questioning the use of cannibalism but when Lee used his final breaths to tell Maren to eat him bones and all as a final act of love for them to be together in their most intimate way possible, it just clicked, all of the pieces fell into place. It’s tragic because on one hand they lost their lives once more but on the other hand they surrendered to their inner desires and gave in to what they truly are and in that, Lee had closure for himself, he gave himself up to his undying love that he subscribed to and it was enough. It’s possibly the most tragic ending of the year, I kept thinking about it all night, it’s truly just one of the most beautifully tragic things I’ve seen a movie do. Guadagnino really knows how to capture romance like no other.
Apart from the brilliant script, ‘Bones and All’ stays with you not just from an emotional perspective but also from a visual stance as well. It’s one of the most deliberate movies of the year in how it chooses to portray it’s characters, the horror of certain situations and the intimacy of others. It has this natural feel to it, it’s grand and open and lively. There are these inviting shots of suburban streets being bathed in a coldly coloured sunset. The colours and landscapes are used very meticulously and because of the heavy emotion those scenes carry they’re very memorable. There is a shot early on during the opening sequence where Maren is sneaking out through her window and it felt like something David Lynch would’ve used for ‘Twin Peaks’ in the ’90s. The shot that establishes that Lee is an Eater as well is just entrancing with it’s mysterious and alluring nature. The way it stands still on him while he’s cleaning off blood as he makes his way to the camera but leaning towards one side, it’s very ‘Twin Peaks’ to me. The entire sequence with Michael Stuhlbarg and David Gordon Green is chilling to look at, the darkness of the night, the unsureness of these two strangers and how off they seem, this movie is just masterful and making a first impression with it’s characters. Mark Ryland’s Sully is one of the most disgusting creations I’ve ever seen, he made me squirm with every appearance he had. It’s just an icky movie, with lots of disgusting details and horrid things to look at but even through it’s horror and disgust, when I think of this movie, I just think of Lee and Maren sitting on the grass looking out into the city, free from everything, detached from the world and it’s incredible considering the type of movie this is but it made sense to Guadagnino as it’s also the final shot of the movie.
Overall, ‘Bones and All’ is exactly the type of movie that the longer it marinades in your head, the better it gets. It’s one of the most unforgettable movies of the year, a total surprise and a movie that I think will stay with me for a while. The performances are excellent, Timothée Chalamet is arguably at his best here, he is perfectly cast and that’s something I don’t usually think about but in this case I can’t imagine anyone else playing Lee. Taylor Russell is also fantastic, she carries the emotion very well and with that the movie as well. I never imagine a movie like this would have this much of an impact on me but it really did. It’s weird, disgusting, horrid, wild, free and full of intimacy and it all makes sense. It’s a movie where the director’s presence is actually felt with how meticulous every decision was to make it the way it is. Luca Guadagnino should absolutely be mentioned in the Best Director conversation this Awards Season but again considering the type of movie, that probably won’t happen but it should!
‘Bones and All’ is now available on demand.