Watching Bones and All I was reminded of a wonderful Shel Silverstein poem called Masks, reprinted here without any permission from anyone (if it’s a problem, please contact me).
It reads as follows:
She had blue skin
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through
Then passed right by—
And never knew
It’s a touching and sweet ode to letting one’s freak flag fly. A necessary reminder in a world that constantly pressures everyone to conform. In Bones and All, Luca Guadagnino’s atypical road trip romance, we follow two ‘blue’ folk who haven’t necessarily waited their whole lives to find one another, but who have every reason to keep their ‘blueness’ hidden from those around them. While Silverstein’s poem uses blue as a stand in for any of a number of repressed identities and desires, the malady suffered by the doomed lovers of this film isn’t so innocent as an alternative identity. Our lead duo isn’t harmlessly queer or kinky — they’re cannibals, an affliction which, in this world, is not one made by choice. As posited here, cannibals are born this way, and no amount of restraint will prevent their urges from manifesting.
When Maren (Taylor Russell) finds herself on her own after giving in to her…uh…appetite, she’s pretty much at a loss. Forced to live on the road, repressing her urges when she can, and hiding the spoils when she can’t. She’s doing her best to reestablish roots in any scant way she is able. This isn’t easy. Shes a young, attractive woman with no place for herself or her stuff, which puts her in a state of constant danger through very little fault of her own. It’s when she meets Lee (Timothée Chalamebyourname) that she starts to find some sense of belonging. Lee is also a cannibal, and as a result, he has found himself living a similarly nomadic hand-to-mouth lifestyle. Their friendship is fast, with a romance right behind it, and together it looks like they may be able to create something a little more real and permanent than they’ve ever been able to before. Problems come in the form of off-the-grid living, strained familial bonds, and the fact that cannibals have an innate ability to smell one another. Our protagonists must navigate it all in order to not just stay alive, but make an attempt to thrive.
Based on a novel by Camille DeAngelis, Bones and All embraces its YA source material without limiting the scope of the film to a YA audience. It is a very mature story with plenty of shocking gore, but it appeals to the same melancholia that keeps hormonal teenagers consuming page after page. It’s a teen story for grown ups as much as it’s a grown up story for teens — a horror film as much as it is a romance. These elements are balanced flawlessly, creating an experience that the viewer won’t soon forget.
Luca Guadagnino taps into the tone of both Call Me By Your Name and his absolutely stellar remake of Suspiria, showing as much a command for building a believable onscreen romance as he does for making palatable and understandable a truly despicable act. Maren and Lee deserve love, freedom, and happiness, but they also eat people quite often, and do so in gruesome and cruel ways. Yet they are easy to root for, both being victims of circumstance. They both feel shame for their acts, but not for their desires — an impossible dichotomy to sell, but here we buy it wholesale.
Chalametbyourname taps into the vibes of early Nicolas Cage in creating Lee. He’s an oddball and a rebel in equal measure, wearing his strangeness almost as a badge of honor. It’s no wonder that despite his spindly lil legs, he is the object of affection for Maren, brought to stunning life by Taylor Russell, who evokes empathy from the viewer effortlessly.
It’s a relatively relaxing viewing experience for the most part, helped massively by its score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (because who else do you hire to score a cannibal romance?) and a strong supporting cast that includes Mark Rylance, Jessica Harper, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Chloe Sevigny.
Honest, sweet, upsetting, and thoughtful, Bones and All is a wholly unique film that takes its time grabbing hold, coaxing the viewer into a charming trance before unleashing a powerful, hard-earned third act that will undoubtedly linger in the mind for a long time.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Written by Luca Guadagnino, Camille DeAngelis
Starring Timothée Chalamebyourname, Taylor Russell, Mark Rylance, Kendle Coffey
Rated R, 130 minutes