“I don’t trust you. It doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong about that. It matters that I feel it.”
Blood, blood, and more blood. But I’m sure you already knew that coming in. Luca Guadagnino’s rust-colored cannibal love-story is anything but easy one the senses.
Set in the acid-wash jeans era of the 80s, we begin with our main protagonist of the story Maren, beautifully played by Taylor Russell, as she lives a typical life of an American teenager—or so we’re led to believe. She’s moved to this new town only recently, and her new female classmates take a liking to her and invite her to a sleepover. “My father won’t let me,” says Maren. Of course, the over-bearing father troupe. But as Maren approaches the car after school, he’s all rainbows and cupcakes—even insisting that she drive home. Not an overbearing father? The circumstances only become more unusual. Her father (André Holland) is the epitome of kindness. As they say their goodnights to one another, her father locks her bedroom door. And Maren, in her act of rebellion, leaves to spend the night at the girl’s house. But as the sexual tension begins to build between Maren and one of the girls, it’s only too much to bare as Maren bites the girl’s finger, leaving nothing there but bones—blood pouring down Maren’s face. Maren and her father immediately flee to Maryland, leaving everything behind in an instant. But with constant moving, that soon becomes too hard as Maren is left with nothing but some cash, her birth certificate, and a cassette tape from her father saying she will never see him again.
Based on the novel by Camille DeAngelis, we follow Maren through the Midwest in hopes of finding her mother who she knows little about. In her travels, she finds there are more people like her—”eaters” as they refer to themselves. She meets a creepy man named Sully (Mark Rylance) who teaches her how to use her sense of smell in finding other eaters, which helps her to find fellow eater, Lee (Timothée Chalamet). It doesn’t take long before these lustful teenage lovebirds are hungering for each other and human meat.
Truth be told I expected a lot more from Bones and All. It wasn’t the gallons of gore that got me giving this film a mediocre score, but rather the story itself. It couldn’t be helped that every time I rolled my eyes it was due to the cheesy moments of romance or sentimentality in Maren’s family life.
Because I’m in no way a horror fan, I was initially afraid that I wouldn’t be able to give this film a fair shake, but it made me craving more horror. There are brief flashes of “oh my gosh” sequences that could bring you to the edge of your seat, but I wanted it to escalate more. One scene in particular were the scenes of Jake the crazy-hillbilly-eater and his undercover cop friend that Maren and Lee run into. Michael Stuhlbarg who plays Jake, in all his insanity goodness, left me wondering at which point he could absolutely go berserk and begin harming everyone out in these secluded woods.
I never thought I’d want more horror in a film, but here I am saying it. Bones and All just doesn’t bring the fright it promises. If your squeamish from the sight of blood, then sure you’ll be screaming in terror. But for the rest of you, I wouldn’t expect you to necessarily be scared. Bookend by two compelling storylines—with mostly dry narrative in the middle—Bones and All falls overwhelmingly short of anything that Guadagnino has done in the past. While the cast is stellar and the overall filmmaking is exquisite, this film left me hungering for more.
Bones and All
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell, Mark Rylance, André Holland, Anna Cobb, Chloë Sevigny, and Michael Stuhlbarg