HomeEntertainmentBones and All review: An ancient love story brought to bloody new life
Bones and All review: An ancient love story brought to bloody new life
November 25, 2022
The urge to equate young love with doom and mortality probably goes back far beyond Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet. It’s such a natural narrative pairing: first love rarely lasts, and youth certainly doesn’t.
For most people, the fiery intensity of young love—the “Everything is new and wonderful and we’re the first people to ever experience sex” feeling of infatuation and discovery—is likely to fade quickly. And for adults looking back on that era of their lives, the sense of loss and nostalgia can feel like the emotions of navigating death. But the metaphor has rarely been as surprisingly vivid as it is in Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and alla gory shocker that comes with plenty of familiar horror movie elements, but plays far more like a classic road romance.
It’s a strange film, seemingly designed to confuse both fans of Guadagnino’s previous horror-inflected feature, 2018’s messy giallo remake Sighand fans of his sun-baked gay romance in 2017 Call me by your name. While Bones and all bridges the gap between the two films so neatly that it feels calculated, it also raises the question of how much audience crossover there can be between the two films. Horror hounds may be disappointed by how much of the film is low-key relationship drama and a coming-of-age story, low on breathless suspense and jump scares. Fans of romantic dramas are sure to see more gore than they’re used to seeing in their movies. But for genre-agnostic cinephiles, the sheer audacity and uniqueness of the story — an adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’ 2015 YA novel of the same name — will be a big part of the draw.
Bones and all reunites Guadagnino and Call me by your name star Timothée Chalamet for another love story. But it takes some time for Chalamet to enter the picture. Initially, the film centers on Maren (Waves‘ Taylor Russell), a high school student with a series of secrets. Maren lives alone with her father (André Holland) in a dilapidated, dilapidated home. A hidden sense of shame hangs over every little detail of their home and their interactions, but it takes a while for the film to reveal why that’s true and what they’re both navigating. And when the revelations come, they are horrifying and exciting at the same time, in part because the details are so unexpected.
Besides going in prepared for massive amounts of blood and some brief, intense violence, Bones and all is the kind of film that is better experienced in the moment than in descriptions. Each new revelation about Maren’s past and present unfolds carefully, partly because she does not really understand her own nature and must learn about it along with the audience. Screenwriter David Kajganich (a writer-producer-developer on the much-loved horror series The terror) never feels like he’s in a rush to get to a particular part of the story. He and Guadagnino give plenty of space for Maren to learn through conversations, first with the new acquaintance Sully (Bridge of SpiesMark Rylance, who once again disappears into an incredible performance), then with recent acquaintance Lee (Chalamet), a world-wise boy her age.
Viewers who don’t already know the basic premise of the film and want to experience it in the theater should stop reading right here. The early trailer and festival summaries for Bones and all were tight-lipped about what makes Maren, Lee and others different, but public descriptions of the film have widely shared the secret: Bones and all‘s wide-eyed central couple are both “Eaters”, who are in reality demented beings driven to devour human flesh. Their victims don’t have to be alive, but once they start consuming human bodies, they must continue or die. Bones and all more or less follows in the footsteps of films from Bonnie and Clyde to Terrence Malick’s Badlands by putting a few beautiful people on the wrong side of the law and sending them on the run, but in this case it’s questionable how human they are. And their crimes aren’t sexy and stylish, like Bonnie and Clyde’s bank robberies or the vampire murders in Hungry — Guadagnino makes the rituals of consumption bloody, grotesque and animalistic, an uncomfortable question of survival.
All of this gives him more room to play when it comes to romanticizing Lee and Maren’s connection. There is a centuries-old tradition of sexualizing monsters and predatory behavior, and Bones and all leans hard into it while still building the story around the old growing patterns of protagonists finding themselves (and finding their courage in the process). Maren has a lot to navigate – a family mystery, her first love, her first understanding that there are other Eaters and rules that bind them. But above all, she must find out who she is in Lee’s shadow, and outside of it. He knows a lot more than she does about the world and dining life, but she knows more about what she wants and who she hopes to be, and she must navigate how her desires meet his understanding of the world.
Like Call me by your name, Bones and all is a sensuous film, especially visually – Guadagnino revels in the kind of big country vistas that made Andrea Arnold’s similar summer vacation theme American honey so memorable, and he lights his wires warmly by day and with lurking fervor by night. But it’s more notable for the way he and Kajganich navigate the push and pull between the story’s romantic elements and horror themes. There’s a big metaphor at play here about how parents, families and friends enable deviant behavior until it feels normal, and how being sheltered from the world can make it difficult to enter it properly. And it plays in radically different ways at the same time: both through the lens of two young children on a romantic road trip, and as two growing monsters who seduce and kill other people for food.
There is an equally complex sense of attraction and repulsion at play in Maren and Lee’s relationship. They are very different people who rarely seem suited to each other – but they also share that central unshakable similarity, and the fact that neither of them knows another eater their age draws them together, even when they annoy each other with their conflicting goals and beliefs. The filmmakers continue to hum the questions with a live-wire intensity throughout the film – should these kids stick together or go their separate ways? Do they help each other as much as they hurt each other? That’s a lot of complications for a young-love movie, and Guadagnino makes the boundaries of their relationship much more tense than any question of who might be chasing them or who they might be chasing.
Bones and all will be a tough sell for many audiences, given the strange way it spans genres and tones. There is almost an element of camp in the way Guadagnino contrasts the appealing image of Lee and Maren silently holding each other in a private moment with the repulsive image of them slathered with dark, congealed arterial blood and pulling flies as they flee from their corpses. latest victim. But the craftsmanship throughout the film is impressive and convincing. The cast and performances are shockingly great, especially when an almost unrecognizable Michael Stuhlbarg and director David Gordon Green drop by for a great single-sequence cameo. And the whole enterprise is deliciously weird, the kind of movie that makes people walk away thinking “I’ve never seen anything like this to Before.” This movie draws on some old, old tropes and familiar ideas. But it does so in a way that makes them feel as new, fresh, and exciting as young love itself.