Bones And All Sucks the Marrow Of Its Horrific Premise: Review

The post Bones And All Sucks the Marrow Of Its Horrific Premise: Review appeared first on Consequence.

This review is part of our coverage of the 2022 New York Film Festival.

The Pitch: Something’s a bit off about Maren (Taylor Russell) — when we first meet her, she looks like an ordinary teen just trying to finish high school and fit in with her new environment. But it’s not long before a get-to-know-you sleepover (and a torn-off ring finger) reveals her for who she is: an “eater,” someone with the insatiable need to consume human flesh.

Fed up with the constant moving and the pressure of looking after such a dangerous girl, her father (André Holland) abandons her one morning, leaving only her birth certificate and a cassette tape detailing his account of their early years together. The rest, as he narrates, is up to her.

Thus begins her odyssey to track down her long-missing mother and understand her nature, sending her across the Great Plains and the path of other eaters. Some are elder statesmen (like Mark Rylance’s eccentric Sully) who keep to rules like “never eat an eater” and braid the hair of their victims to remember them.

But others, like the rakish, disheveled Lee (Timothée Chamalet), feel like junkies — driven to the smell of new flesh, unable to resist their urges. Soon enough, she enters into an idiosyncratic bond with Lee, the two learning to live and lunch together as they figure out whether there’s anything more to existence than their pursuit of the next meal.

Cannibal Me By Your Name: In many ways, Bones and All feels like the merging of Luca Guadagnino’s two major modes as a filmmaker: There’s the sumptuous, melancholic romance of Call Me By Your Name (a film that ironically co-stars an actor alleged of cannibalism) blended with the blood-soaked horror of his 2018 Suspiria remake. (David Kajganich, who adapts Camille DeAngelis’ novel, also wrote the script for that film.) But the two moods feel uniquely simpatico here, resulting in an oddly sweet — presumably a little coppery, too, due to all the blood — alchemy of love and murder.

Comparisons to Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde abound, and they’re not that far off, with their tale of lovers skirting human morality and forging their own sense of paradise with each other. It helps that the central couple is perversely appealing, Russell’s cool, glamorous detachment (similar to her stellar work in Waves) vibrating next to Chalamet’s off-balanced opportunist.

They’re both running away from horrible pasts, leaning on each other in times of need, discovering the world and themselves together one meal at a time. As they spend more time together, they serve as equalizing forces, like any good relationship: Lee gives Maren a sense of purpose, while Maren gives Lee the space to be vulnerable. It’s enough to make you want to see these two kids make it, even as you’re terrified of the next consequence that may lie around the corner.

Bones & All Review Timothee Chalamet
Bones & All Review Timothee Chalamet

Bones and All (MGM)

Here’s to the Ladies Who Lunch (On Other Ladies): But Guadagnino’s emphasis on the consumptive nature of cannibalism draws links to other post-modern vampire flicks like Interview with the Vampire, Let the Right One In and (most notably) Near Dark, with their emphasis on outsiders who live outside the margins of society and can only find peace among their own.

One thing about “eaters” is they can smell their own; they’re drawn to each other by scent, which lets Maren encounter Sully, then Lee, then a host of others. These brief glimmers of community are suffused with a sense of calm, then danger, as if they could turn on each other, fangs out and fingers ripping, at any moment.

It’s a nifty (if obvious) metaphor for the film’s Reagan-era setting, which saw America melt away from a nation of comparative community into a warren of rabid, atavistic individuals. And in that zeal for the short-term pleasure of a feast, one’s entire life is turned upside down; you have to scramble to leave before anyone finds out, denying you any way to put down roots and build a life for yourself.

The concept is vibrant, and Guadagnino films it with oddball sensitivity (complete with impressionistic edits as our characters dream of past traumas, or the camera zoom-cuts in on a new smell). But sometimes, its more presentational elements get in the way: Rylance’s Sully is an overwritten ball of dead-eyed tics and affectations, the actor affecting a character voice somewhere between his Don’t Look Up tech-bro whisper and Herbert the Pedophile from Family Guy. His segments come and go, a more outre horror picture poking in from the margins of this sensitive love story.

The Verdict: There’s something, well, deliciously appetizing about Bones and All’s oddball romance, from Guadagnino’s sensitive approach to the material to its staggering work from both leads. It’s the tale of two people who fall so head over heels for each other that they’ll chew up the world around them to spend one more moment together. We consume each other in so many ways — we eat up others’ time, our emotions, our attention, our love, and offer it up for feasting in return. Bones and All literalizes that impulse, and shows it for the dangerous, yet beautiful thing it is.

Where’s It Playing? Bones and All comes to theaters in wide release November 23rd.

Trailer:

Bones And All Sucks the Marrow Of Its Horrific Premise: Review
Clint Worthington

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