Bones and All (2022)
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Written by David Kajganich
Starring Taylor Russell, Timothee Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg
Release Date November 18th, 2022
Published November 28th, 2022
Cannibalism, eating people. Bones and All follows a small subset of people who are cannibals but not by choice. Maren Yearly (Taylor Russell) was born a cannibal and, as we come to find out, she can't control this desire. Her father helped her manage it for a while and even kept her from realizing her true nature for a time. However, after she snacks on a friend from school, biting off her finger, Dad can't keep her hidden anymore and he's not sure that he should. After bundling her up and setting her up in a new home, he disappears.
Left on her own, Maren has only a few dollars and a tape that her father made explaining the things that have happened that led to him leaving. He also pointed her in the direction of where her mother may be, somewhere in Minnesota. The film is set in the 1980s so no cellphones or internet, and this is a strong choice as a cellphone and internet access would undoubtedly undermine much of Bones and All. Maren's isolation, and the few fellow cannibals she meets along the way, would be less meaningful if she could join a supportive cannibal community on Facebook.
The first cannibal that Maren meets is a true creep. Sully (Mark Rylance), upon meeting Maren, claims that he could smell her from more than a block away. The movie eventually explains that all cannibals are capable of smelling each other but it is an effectively creepy way to introduce Sully, who also talks about himself in the third person. Mark Rylance is an effective horror movie character. He suggests an art-house take on Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2's Chop Top.
Maren does end up spending a night at a house that Sully has staked out. It happens to be the home of an elderly woman who is slowly dying on the floor of her upstairs bedroom while Sully is preparing game hens for dinner. He tells Maren that he feeds on people who he knows are dying, though that is an unsurprising lie. The two share a meal together, if you know what I mean, and then Maren runs off, frightened by Sully's creepy vibe. He's not gone though, unfortunately.
At the next stop of her journey toward Minnesota and the mother she has never known, Maren meets Lee (Timothee Chalamet) after he disposes of a jerk at a store, and covers for her while she shoplifts. Maren uses her newfound sense of smell to determine that Lee is also a cannibal and since they are close in age, Maren feels comfortable getting to know him. This begins a tentative romance, though one troubled by their equal need to feed on human flesh.
I am not sure I understand the point of Bones and All. The film has elements of a horror movie but it isn't scary. The film appears to be aimed as a teen romance but the romance is rather tepid. I can see the artfulness in the direction of Luca Guadagnino, he's a tremendous director. The production design, the evocation of the past without leaning too heavily on obvious signifiers, demonstrate his talent for time and place in his work.
That said, what was the point of any of this? What does making the main characters of the movie cannibals mean? It's not a particularly good metaphor for the struggles of outsiders. Frankly speaking, Cannibals probably should be outsiders. Considering that our main character is forced to go on the run after she couldn't stop herself from biting off the finger of an innocent friend, yeah, cannibals probably don't belong in everyday life.
So, what is cannibalism meant to be a metaphor for? If it isn't intended as a metaphor then what is the point of Bones and All? Perhaps it's about committing yourself to something completely? Bones and all is a term that cannibals in this world use literally as a way of demonstrating the power that cannibals in this world can wield, they can eat someone Bones and All if they choose to. I guess that's a metaphor for committing yourself to do something all the way but since the something in question here is cannibalism, that metaphor becomes a tad muddy.
I don't know what anyone who is part of Bones and All is going for. If the movie isn't scary, it isn't romantic, it has no sense of humor, then what is the point? I can tell you it is well accomplished technically and that certainly has a particular appeal but I don't think most audiences see movies simply because they look good. Most people want a good story to go with the techical accomplishment of the movie and Bones and All doesn't tell a good story. It meanders through a series of incidents that offer vague insights into these characters before ending as meaninglessly as it existed.
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