Bones And All (Review)

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon Green, Jessica Harper, Jake Horowitz, Mark Rylance
Certificate: 18
Run Time: 130 mins

Bones And All is the latest by director Luca Guadagnino, a romantic drama infused with cannibal horror. Guadagnino has experienced a solid career thus far – I really enjoyed A Bigger Splash. Call Me By Your Name brought him awards attention, a sunsoaked homosexual coming-of-age drama that propelled Timothée Chalamet into the limelight. Although the film received mixed reviews, Guadagnino showed real ambition with Suspiria, which for my money bettered Dario Argento’s original. Guadagnino reunites with A Bigger Splash and Suspiria writer, David Kajganich, who adapts Camille DeAngelis’ 2015 novel.  

Opening in 1980s Virginia, the film is told from the perspective of Maren Yearly (Taylor Russell), a teenager with a cannibalistic impulse. Her father (André Holland) doesn’t let her out of the house at night and when she sneaks out to attend a sleepover with some school friends, we quickly learn why. He soon abandons her and she is left to fend for herself with her dark secret. 

She quickly learns she is not the only person to have cannibalistic tendencies in the American midwest, meeting others who can ‘smell’ her along the way, including the creepy Sully (Mark Rylance). Guadagnino doesn’t explicitly say they are vampires but they may as well be.  She crosses paths with Lee (Timothée Chalamet), another cannibal who she falls in love with and they begin a nomadic life together out on the road. 

Bones And All is an admirable and original piece from Guadagnino, tonally resembling a cross between Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands and Nomadland. There’s some solid performances and the horror sequences make for expectedly uncomfortable viewing. There isn’t a great deal in terms of a narrative and like the duo of Russell and Chalamet, there are scenes that evoke a feeling of aimlessness. This is as well as the film’s pacing feeling rather languorous at times. 

Taylor Russell carries the film well, playing a character younger than her age in reality with conviction. Chalamet, on the other hand, is rather one-note – he can perform this type of role in his sleep. Of the rest of the cast, Rylance is the standout as a particularly grotesque and unpredictable loner and he does a brilliant job of not alluding to the nature of his character’s convictions. Andre Holland gives a muted performance as Maren’s father and like Call Me By Your Name, Michael Stuhlbarg has a monologue to deliver that is particularly chilling. 

The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is powerful in places, the first time the duo have worked with Guadagnino. There are three or four scenes where their score is particularly chilling, straight out of their David Fincher back catalogue. At other times, the score is surprisingly dream-like and light, uncharacteristic of their typical sound. As well as the score, the sound design also leaves quite the impression, the effects when characters are eating being particularly uncomfortable.

The film is well shot by Arseni Khachaturan, Guadagnino diverting from his usual cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom. Unlike Guadagnino’s other films where Mukdeeprom’s cinematography is clinical, Bones And All has a grungy aesthetically, often murky and a dark colour palette. 

Bones And All may not be Guadagnino’s best work, but it represents an ambitious fusion of genres and makes for an often thought-provoking and uncomfortable experience. There’s conviction in the majority of the performances and it’s an atmospheric and technically alluring slice of blood-soaked Americana. I’d have liked to have seen more meat to its bones though. 

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)


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