Review: “Bones and All” is a cinematic feast
With 2017’s “Call Me by Your Name”, director Luca Guadagnino achieved the level of American attention that his films had enjoyed internationally since the start of his “Desire Trilogy”—beginning with the Tilda Swinton-starring “I Am Love” (2009) and which continued with the underseen (by me, at least), “A Bigger Splash.” (2015)
He then shifted from arty romantic dramas to arty horror, with his hypnotic and erotic 2018 remake of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria.” Guadagnino’s Zen-like direction and cool emotional distance from his characters are a form of alchemy that, no matter the subject or emotion, feels organic, as one gets wrapped up in the emotional tableaus that he constructs with an unerring eye. You always feel like you’re on some intimate vacation, no matter how catastrophic the destination is.
“Bones and All” is certainly in that vein, particularly when it comes to taking the trip, and bridging the genre gap between romance, road movie, and the most personal kind of horror—dealing with yourself.
We meet Maren (Taylor Russell) when she gives up the game. She is compelled to chew off a friend’s finger. She needs, at some point, to eat human flesh. Her well-meaning father abandons her because he knows that people-eating might become a problem. Taylor only only wants to find her mother.
Soon after, she meets Sully (Mark Rylance), a creepy old man who wants to take her father’s role, to connect, and teach her the ethics of being a cannibal. They meet because he can smell her from miles away. He’s a well-meaning pedophile. You would think this would be a straight up horror movie.
But it is not. “Bones and All” is a love story between them all. Maren becomes a Midwestern hobo when she meets Lee (long-time Guadagnino collaborator, Timothée Chalamet), another vagabond, whose overt sexiness and charm lead them both down a path of self-discovery and self-destruction.
Written by David Kajganich, and based on the novel by Camille DeAngelis, Guadagnino, along with his cinematographer, Arseni Khachaturan, “Bones and All” is a perfect dreamscape, as Maren and Lee (and Sully) tour like vampires looking for a meaningful life and hopefully avoiding murder. I definitely don’t want to give much away, and this isn’t a vampire flick. But I could not help but recall the romantic and solitary vibe of films like “Near Dark”, or “Let the Right One In”, particularly when it comes to Khachaturan’s smoky, nighttime visuals, or the banality of driving around a barren, brutally sunlit Midwest. They aren’t vampires. They are not immortal, or supernatural. They’re compelled to live outside of society.
The score for “Bones and All” is atypical for the likes of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. I barely noticed their tone—that thing they do for films like “The Social Network”, or any brooding sonic background that they’ve rightfully been Grammy-nominated for so many times. They (purposefully) melted into the background. The soundtrack for “Bones and All”, however, aside from Reznor and Ross playing against type, is doing something completely different; loaded with mid-‘80s’ deep cuts from the likes of KISS, Joy Division, Eels, and New Order. It is the most faithful ‘80s movie that I have seen this year aside from “White Noise.” If you’re looking for that level of nostalgia, production design, a curated soundtrack, a vigilante story, a dark beauty, or a sense of what reluctant, emo ‘80s cannibals do, you won’t be disappointed.
“Bones and All” is the most romantic, creepy, sad, and sometimes disgusting movie that I have seen, or likely will see, this year.