Director: Luca Guadagnino
Writers: David Kajganich (screenplay by), Camille DeAngelis (based on the novel by)
Stars: Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell, Mark Rylance
With hindsight, I can see why Bones and All didn’t perform so well at the box office, through no fault of anyone involved with its production. How exactly do you market a movie like this?
Do you promote it as a love story? After all, the chemistry between Merin (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timothee Chalamet) is sweet and engaging, both displaying a low-key likability that feels authentic. However, they’re also “Eaters.” Not exactly vampires or zombies, Eaters are a minuscule part of the human population who are sometimes physically compelled to engage in cannibalism. The subject matter alone will be off-putting to anybody expecting a romantic tale of star-crossed lovers, no matter how beautiful they are.
So, it’s a horror film, right? Gotta pump the brakes on that, too. As vaguely explained by old-timer Sully (Mark Rylance), the primal nature of an Eater is disturbing. Not only are they driven to eat people…they generally feed on them alive. This is shown numerous times in lingering, graphic detail. But while these scenes are indeed horrifying, the film never has the atmosphere or tone of a horror film, nor does it ever strive for one. The overall aesthetic – and pace, for that matter – shares more similarities with the Terrance Malick classic, Badlands.
Oh, so it’s a road movie? Well…sort of…maybe? A good chunk of the narrative does feature Merin – upon discovering her true nature – seeking the mother who abandoned her years ago. Along the way, she meets Sully, who creeps her out but nevertheless teaches her how to cope, and later Lee, an equally troubled Eater drifting from place to place. But while this couple is literally on the road for most of the film, the story is mostly about them trying to find their place in the world and achieve some kind of normalcy. There are moments when even the cannibal aspects of the story are temporarily forgotten, which seems fitting since we’ve already ceased looking at them as monsters.
Because of its genre defying nature, I can imagine Bones and All earning a reputation as a divisive film, sparking lively hate-it-or-hate-it debates. Director Luca Guadagnino was also responsible for the equally polarizing remake of Suspiria, and like that film, this one is longer than it needs to be and sometimes feels a little too determined to confound audience expectations. However, it’s beautifully shot, features great performances and has a unique premise. I’m just glad I wasn’t responsible for trying to sell the thing.