A teen with an insatiable desire for human flesh sets out on a road trip to find her mother and answers for her condition, meeting a boy along the way. Based on the novel of the same name, Bones and All is a disturbing coming-of-age story, yet it remains somewhat endearing, filled with beautiful and unnerving performances.
Abandoned by her father, who could no longer handle her cannibal cravings, Maren (Taylor Russell) travels across the country to find her mother. Soon into her journey, she meets another “eater” named Sully (Mark Rylance), a peculiar older man who gives her some insight into their disorder. Though he’s somewhat gracious to her, she has a strange feeling about him and sneaks away to resume her search alone.
She soon runs into another eater named Lee (Timothée Chalamet), quickly forming a friendship. Maren’s never connected with another person like this, let alone someone like her. As their road trip continues, the two form an indescribable bond as Maren struggles with the moralities of what they do to satisfy their hunger.
There’s a beauty to Bones and All when you look past the cannibal horrors present. It’s a tale about love and two people finding the ability to open up to someone in the way they never could before — Maren most of all, as she’s thrust into adulthood in a new way with a compulsion she can’t control.
I’m unsure whether the book also takes place in the 1980s, but I enjoyed this time setting for the story. It feels like a genuine classic coming-of-age road trip story without the noise of modernity. There’s a grit to it that helps everything feel authentic, thanks to cinematographer Arseni Khachaturan. From Maren’s father’s tape recording to the tedious nature of searching, all encompassed with beautiful cinematography.
Though there’s a lovely story of friendship, the film is not for the faint of heart. While some may debate its genre, it truly is a horror film in the end. The practical effects are disturbing, even from the first scene, although I didn’t find it to be overly gratuitous. It mostly stays rather tame, with a lot of the stomach-churning moments in the sound design. But as to be expected with a story about cannibals, you’ll see some fairly squeamish moments.
The more you sit with Bones and All, the more you can pull out allegories their cannibalism represents, themes of addiction and mental health, and the genealogy of it all. For the romantics, you’ll find themes of all-consuming love, that human desire to find someone who understands you and accepts you despite faults.
While cannibalism offers an exaggerated—and appalling—conduit, the overall message is an intriguing, multi-layered one. It does miss the themes of general meat consumption, as author Camille DeAngelis meant for the novel to have you question the eating of any animals, but I understand that has more complexities.
Director Luca Guadagnino has crafted something that feels like a heartwarming journey through the midwest filled with unimaginable horrors. And with a haunting score by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, Bones and All grasps at you in many different ways — leaving you with so much to think about after the credits roll.
A wonderful film, the scenery, the music, and most importantly, the performances by everyone from Taylor Russell, Timothee Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg (who I barely recognized) and a brief but impactful cameo from Chloe Sevigny who was also unrecognizable. Luca Guadanino is truly a genius filmmaker.
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So many transformative performances. Took me a few seconds to realize that it was Chloe Sevigny in the hospital scene.