Bones and All, Luca Guadagnino’s first movie based in America, offers a polished, roots-and-all look at 1980s Middle America and young cannibal love.
Warning: This review contains some spoilers.
Based on the 2015 YA book by Camille DeAngelis, and adapted by David Kajganich, who also wrote 2018’s Suspiria, Guadagnino’s latest follows 18-year-old Maren (Taylor Russell), who’s led a transient life with her father (André Holland), because she’s always been an “eater” who hungers for human flesh.
Director: Luca Guadagnino
The latest film from the ‘Call Me By Your Name’ and ‘Suspiria’ director heads to America for a glossy cannibal love story.
After she shows her true self during a sleepover—in a very effective scene—her dad takes off and leaves behind a cassette recording, offering some details about Maren’s life and her estranged mother, Janelle (Chloë Sevigny). When we finally meet her mother, who is also a cannibal, there is little connection between the two and we get no further backstory. Which is kind of a bummer because it’s Chloë Sevigny as a cannibal mom.
In the book, DeAngelis created a fictional tribe of people who are cannibals by birth, not by choice. (The 2016 film Raw also played with inherited cannibalism.) Discovering that there are others like her is a major revelation for Maren, and that comes from meeting the eccentric Sully (Mark Rylance, basically doing his Don’t Look Up character), who teaches her some of the formalities of the lifestyle.
Eventually, she meets a more kindred spirit: Lee (Timothée Chalamet). He often sports a fedora and wide ripped jeans, making “set in the 1980s” more of a suggestion, and speaks in a way that seems a little too rehearsed. Though, knowing that he famously said “I think societal collapse is in the air” at the Venice Film Festival, you can see that coming out of Lee’s mouth.
Timmy stans will come out for this film, but Russell is doing much more interesting work here. She’s curious but reserved, eager to learn how to be without hurting people, whereas Sully and even Lee seem warped by this life.
Michael Stuhlbarg and director David Gordon Green make an unsettling cameo as two cannibal drifters, and Stuhlbarg’s grimy Jake utters the film’s title as a way of educating Lee and Maren on another aspect of cannibalism, but that’s as much info as we get into the more complex parts of being an eater.
While there are some distressing scenes, the cannibalistic elements are a little too slick. Guadagnino is more interested in themes of belonging, desire, and queerness, and deploys them in subtle ways. This is essentially a road-trip movie about finding your people, even if the love story feels a little empty by the end.