Part horror film, part coming-of-age story, part romance, the adaptation of Camille DeAngeli’s young adult novel Bones and All is a small marvel, disturbing and heartbreaking in equal measure.
Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s first project to be shot in the United States avoids many of the pitfalls international writers encounter when starting to work in the country. Never pushing too hard, he paints a portrait of 1980s small-town America, eroded by the forces of progress, zombie cities that leave few opportunities for the young people who grow up there.
Teenage Maren (Taylor Russell) has been abandoned by her father (André Holland), who can no longer deal with Maren’s condition of eating people. The film doesn’t go into the details of this strange hunger, leaving it as the central mystery for Maren to contend with; it makes her an outsider to society, but also unrecognizable to herself in many ways. With some cash, her birth certificate and a cassette on which her father tries to explain himself, Maren goes in search of her mother, whom she never knew.
Along the way, she meets Sully (Mark Rylance), who has the same penchant for cannibalism and seems eager to take her under his wing, but she prefers to travel alone until she meets Lee (Timothée Chalamet). The two young “eaters,” as they call themselves, end up trying to carve out some semblance of normalcy and stability rather than staying on the streets until Sully fits back into their lives.
The film is driven by a sadness, a sad, haunted quality that drowns out even moments of freedom and joy. In this way, the film somehow blends Guadagnino’s interest in body horror, which he explored in his version of Suspiria, and the romance of his Call Me By Your Name, the film that helped launch Chalamet into stardom.
Bones and All is the first film to really capitalize on Chalamet’s rock star red carpet magnetism. As he struts across a room singing along to KISS’s “Lick It Up,” it’s electric, but when he uses that same charm to pick up a carnival worker for dinner, it suddenly takes on a terrifying resonance.
Russell makes an outstanding impression, building on the promise she showed in Trey Edward Shults’ 2019 Waves. Here she captures a sense of dread and confusion at her unspeakable compulsion while simultaneously grappling with a sense of alienation from herself and the world. Wisely, Russell doesn’t try to match Chalamet’s charisma, instead countering it with a calm thoughtfulness and a sense of inner turmoil.
Screenwriter Dave Kajganich, who previously worked with Guadagnino on A Bigger Splash and Suspira, stays true to the spirit of DeAngelis’ novel but makes significant changes. Most notably, he flips the parental structure from the book where Maren was abandoned by her mother to go in search of her father. The move pays off in Chloë Sevigny’s harrowing single scene as Maren’s mother.
The film’s road movie structure allows for a series of brief but crucial appearances. Michael Stuhlbarg plays a disturbing companion the couple meets, alongside filmmaker David Gordon Green in a particularly disturbing twist as a Renfield-esque follower. Jessica Harper brings a bitter emotion to Maren’s grandmother, a woman who has been trying to overcome the deep pain and regrets of her life.
Of special note is costume designer Giulia Piersanti, working with Guadagnino for the fifth time, who captures believable thrift shop glamor for Russell and Chalamet while transforming Rylance into something creepy and everyday. Oscar-winning composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, working with Guadagnino for the first time, create a tender, wistful score, including the tender ballad “(You Made It Feel Like) Home,” which provides a fitting final bit of punctuation.
Like the best young adult novels, Bones and All is deviously simple and reveals itself with unexpected depth and complexity. Young love lingers and stays in a special, secret place in the heart, as does this film. It ends up swallowing you whole.
‘bones and everything’
Rated: R, for strong, gory and disturbing violent content, consistent language, some sexual content and brief graphic nudity
Duration: 2 hours, 10 minutes
To play: Begins November 18, AMC The Grove 14, Los Angeles; AMC Century City; in general publication, November 23
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-11-17/review-bones-and-all-luca-guadagnino-timothee-chalamet ‘Bones And All’ review: Fine young cannibals