THE STORY – Love blossoms between a young woman on the margins of society and a disenfranchised drifter as they embark on a 3,000-mile odyssey through the backroads of America. However, despite their best efforts, all roads lead back to their terrifying pasts and a final stand that will determine whether their love can survive their differences.
THE CAST – Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet & Mark Rylance
THE TEAM – Luca Guadagnino (Director) & David Kajganich (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 130 Minutes
Director Luca Guadagnino is a man capable of many surprises. His 2017 film “Call Me By Your Name” brought him worldwide fame, an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and, of course, for his leading actor, Timothée Chalamet. As the film world watched, what did Guadagnino choose to do next? A remake of the 1977 Dario Argento horror classic “Suspiria” that had style for days but was missing two elements wished for by the many fans of “Call Me By Your Name” — the lush romanticism of the earlier film and the presence of Timothée Chalamet.
With his latest film, “Bones & All,” Guadagnino has combined all their desires — Timmy is back, as well as the romance from “Call Me By Your Name” combined with the horror of “Suspiria.” With a script by “Suspiria” David Kajganich from the YA bestseller by Camille DeAngelis, Guadagnino once again surprises with a coming-of-age romantic horror road film like none other.
Maren Yearly (Taylor Russell) is a teenager searching for friends in high school. But an ill-fated sleep-over with another classmate reveals something else about Maren: she’s a cannibal. This unfortunate character trait has forced Maren and her father (Andre Holland) to flee from town to town, setting down roots, only to have to run away again after Maren gets hungry. It’s finally too much for Dad, who ultimately flees himself, leaving Maren to hit the road to find her long-abandoned mother, who might be able to provide answers as to why Maren is who she is.
Farther down the road on Maren’s quest, she encounters two fellow “eaters” (as they are called). One, an eccentric older man named Sully (Mark Rylance), smells a fellow eater from a block away and offers Maren lodging for the night at the home of a potential victim. When she senses that Sully has other designs on her, Maren escapes, unsure whether there’s anyone on whom she can rely.
That call is answered by a drifter named Lee (Chamalet), a fellow eater who is seeking to find a way to live a straight life, and soon the two young cannibals find that their initial attraction is growing into something more profound. There is actually a sweetness to their relationship (in a Young Adult sort of way) that stands out in direct contrast to the grisly manner in which they must sustain themselves in order to stay alive. Maren, in particular, is surprised at the lengths to which Lee will go to get fresh meat, and the gender of his victims seems irrelevant to the bisexual Lee. In fact, the most memorable of Lee’s seductions in the film is with a man — a sexy sleazebucket of a carnival worker (Jake Horowitz) — where his ‘seduce and devour’ technique both appalls and fascinates Maren.
Lee’s fluid sexuality is indeed one of the more intriguing features of “Bones & All,” with its tale of young outcasts in society seen by many as a metaphor for the life LGBT youth must face where their love is condemned by society. Guadagnino’s evident love of these outsiders gives “Bones & All” an extra element of emotional warmth that, given the film’s unusual premise, is both surprising and welcome.
Given the Young Adult tone of the romance, the chemistry between Russell and Chamalet is kept light, but these two actors are so skilled that they still manage to suggest deeper meanings within every encounter. Chamalet’s role is clearly supporting, but he consistently delivers, adding something new about Lee in every scene so that we constantly want more about his complex character. But “Bones & All” is Maren’s story, and Russell, who was so great in “Waves,” carries the bulk of the film on her shoulders, making us care about Maren from the very start despite her many complexities that adds yet another powerful performance to her already-impressive filmography.
Guadagnino has wisely assembled a collection of veteran character actors to help give “Bones & All” even more acting gravitas. It was so nice to see Jessica Harper again in a lovely scene as Maren’s grandmother and Chloe Sevigny chills to the bone as her self-mutilating mother. But it is Mark Rylance as the ever-hungry Sully that audiences will likely remember most vividly. Though he is primarily celebrated for his low-key performances in “Bridge of Spies” and this year’s “The Outfit,” when he wants to go big, Rylance goes giant (“Don’t Look Up“). Love or hate his acting choices (and I suspect there will be critics on both sides), but he brilliantly manages what the role requires of him. He is menacing as hell.
“Bones & All” is a film that’s filled with contradictions. It’s moving but also brutal. It’s sweet but also shocking. In short, it’s filled with surprises, much like its distinguished director.