Luca Guadagnino is the same filmmaker behind contrasting delights like Call Me By Your Name. He takes a significant spin as he explores romance with gore and blood in Warner Bros’ Bones And All. Following its film festival run, the picture now secures a theatrical release.
The film is based on the 2015 novel of the same name by Camille DeAngelis. It focuses on shy teen Maren (Taylor Russell), who is not like her classmates. She eats flesh; a fact her beleaguered single father finds increasingly complex to hide – and manage. Forced to set off on her own, Maren searches for the mother she never knew, meeting other outsiders – fellow ‘feeders’ – on the dusty highways and byways. Some encounters are less savoury like Sully (Mark Rylance), but puckish Lee (Timothée Chalamet) helps her settle into her deviance and feel less alone.
The camera presents a picturesque view of American states, the lush green valleys and barren land are contrasted starkly with the blood/gore Maren is surrounded by. Initially, we see a very ordinary, high-school-going girl. Within 15 or so minutes, that customary visual is cut shockingly as that same girl bites off the finger of another at an unassuming sleepover. A horrific visual, presented in a nuanced yet impactful way.
Guadagnino endeavours to present a tricky story… One which is soul-stirring yet ghastly. Throughout the movie, we see a young romance blooming. But the moment audiences start empathising with them, the sentiment gets abruptly cut to their flesh-eating personality. The filmmaker constantly reminds us that this love story is far from mundane. Their cannibalistic attitude acts as a constant threat… Where that itself is the villain of the story. His treatment is subtle and sensitive in ensuring that cannibalism is not glorified.
As a movie, the writer encompasses several themes… From the loss of innocence, self-discovery and (to an extent) self-destruction, many of these themes are presented in a murky and gritty way. As such, the heartbreaking nature of parental issues cultivates haunting visuals, which further help in the development of characters. By the way, Chalamet, Rylance and Russell deliver some powerful and compelling performance, which definitely ranks among their best.
I also observed the characters’ parallels. For instance, Maren meets Sully. He is an elderly, lonely, quirky and creepy man, who is also ostracised by his family. A foreboding man who tries to compensate for a parental figure. Then of course there’s Lee, a young seemingly compassionate chap. He symbolises her lost adolescence. The constant travelling on road depicts how the characters are trying to escape themselves and using exterior geography to seek their identity.
Interesting how the recent horror flick Barbarian had a sinister plot based in the 80s and Bones too is depicted in that era. This packs nostalgia for a time which was supposed to be uncomplicated and notable for scary films. The depiction of such a time period assists in maintaining fear as to how even in such simple times, horrific things happened beneath society’s noses. The 4:3 ratio enhances the entrapment both protagonists feel. Further props go to the crisp cinematography and editing.
Perhaps the picture’s greatest shortcoming is its tepid pace and length. It requires patience and a shorter duration would’ve made the overall viewing more compact and comprehensible. Technically, Bones And All works in all aspects. This is a movie which fuses genres such as coming-of-age, drama, noir and horror. In fact, we cannot slot into one specific style as the director paves his own genre. I can see this evolving into gaining cult status as time progresses.
On a closing note, the gore is unequivocally balanced with emotional and mental layers. As disturbing as the carnage is, it’s the backdrop and themes that many of us may (or not) have experienced at some point in life which bites into our mind and heart. Having said that though, thankfully, my appetite remains intact.