Bones and All

NYFF Spotlight Selection

Reviewed for by Abe Friedtanzer

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Writer: David Kajganich

Cast: Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, Jessica Harper, David Gordon Green, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jake Horowitz

Screened at: Tribeca Screening Room, NY, 10/3/22

Opens: October 6th, 2022 (New York Film Festival)

Director Luca Guadagnino demonstrated a tremendous ability to showcase characters in his Oscar-nominated 2017 feature Call Me By Your Name, which starred actors Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer as two people at different stages of their lives who develop an intimate romantic connection. His newest film reunites him with Chalamet for another look at a blossoming relationship, this time with less of an age gap but with an altogether less appealing twist, preserving that same raw realness but in a much more grotesque context.

Maren (Taylor Russell) sneaks out one night without the knowledge of her father, Frank (André Holland), to go to the home of a classmate. What starts as a nice time quickly turns vicious when Maren bites off one of her new friends’ fingers, an apparent relapse of a hunger she has experienced and acted on several times throughout her life. Unable to figure out how to help her, Frank leaves Maren to fend for herself. As she sets out in pursuit of the mother she never knew, Maren encounters several colorful characters along her cross-country journey who all share the same appetite for human flesh, including Lee (Chalamet).

Much of the conversation about this cannibalism movie will likely center on Hammer’s absence from it due to his alleged fondness for that horrifying behavior, but that link seems to amount to nothing more than a bizarre coincidence. Instead, it’s worth noting that Guadagnino is extraordinarily capable of focusing on any subject matter and making it somewhat captivating. That these people eat other people is merely an aspect of the plot, and it’s treated as completely normal, particularly for those, unlike Maren, who have figured out how to continue operating without being caught. This isn’t a thriller where the cannibals are being pursued by law enforcement or at risk of serious harm, but instead a love story with that footnote as an aspect of the romance.

Audience enjoyment of this film will be highly dependent on the tolerance for blood and gore on screen, since there is little that is inferred and much more that is starkly shown in the selected scenes where Maren and her companions go to town on the bodies of their unsuspecting victims. It’s not entirely fair to call this horror, where such activities and sights might be commonplace, and that’s the most jarring element of a film that, with a few choice cutaways, might have been much more accessible. But there is something to be said for the acceptance of Maren and who she is, which is what draws her to Lee, who hardly makes any effort to have anyone, even Maren, like him.

Russell has previously impressed in Lost in Space and Waves, and this performance shows that she’s enormously capable of taking on any role. Chalamet is considerably less endearing than in his previous Guadagnino collaboration, deliberately playing someone who skips out on social skills to fulfill his own needs. Additional Guadagnino favorites Michael Stuhlbarg and Chloë Sevigny also appear in the film, as does Mark Rylance, and their turns are similar to the film itself: intriguing to a degree but ultimately just too detestable and skin-crawling to be properly appreciated. There is a beauty that may exist underneath all of this, but the premise and its portrayal is off-putting more than anything else. Guadagnino is a skilled storyteller, but he has chosen a subject matter that has an inherent ugliness and darkness. Whatever light may be found deep within his characters is indiscernible thanks to a brutal presentation that highlights the vicious and sickening craving that unites them.

130 minutes

Story – B-

Acting – B

Technical – B

Overall – B-

Bones and All. Courtesy of United Artists Releasing.

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