Luca Guadagnino and David Kajganich’s latest film, an adaption of Camille DeAngelis’ novel, has been debuting in theaters across the nation, and it involves cannibals. As of Nov. 23, 2022, “Bones and All” has been living up to its title on the big screen, giving its audience a more-than-enough dose of blood, bones, and the sound of tearing flesh. Sound enticing, yet? While the subject matter may steer away the weak-stomached, many are still flocking to theaters to watch well-known actor, Timothee Chalamet, star in the film as Lee, a wayward flesheating young adult. Joining Chalamet is Taylor Russell, portraying the film’s protagonist, Maren, who also happens to be an “eater”, which is how the film refers to a small population of individuals who crave human flesh.
In Maren’s quest to find her mother, she stumbles across Lee and finds that they share the deadly similarity of human consumption. The two young cannibals begin to fall in love as they drift across the country, searching for solace as well as the occasional meal amidst the rural Midwest. Throughout their travels, the pair come across a menacing man-eating duo, family complications, and Maren’s unnerving “eater” mentor, Sully (Mark Rylance), among other trials. “Bones and All” never lacks gruesome showings of a cannibal’s feast, but it also doesn’t shy away from displaying human connection even amongst the loneliest – and deadliest – community.
As a fan of Guadagnino’s past works, I was anticipating to love “Bones and All”. Unfortunately, I was left disappointed. There was great potential for this film with its director, general theme, and talented cast, but I found that it was missing substance. Maybe this is what Guadagnino wanted, for us to be drifting along with the characters on their backcountry escapade, but it left me leaving the theater craving more.
However, in Guadagnino’s classic style, the movie is attuned perfectly to its setting. The representation of the vast, desolate beauty of the Midwest is nostalgic, connecting with anyone who has ever lived in small town Americana. Aesthetic is met through eye-catching camera shots filled with dreamlike color grading and a muted ‘80s backdrop that keeps viewers visually satisfied.
The cast is also phenomenal despite a shapeless storyline. Chalamet effortlessly molds into the laidback vagabond persona of Lee, a character trope new to his acting repertoire. Russell also has us pulled into the character of Maren, superbly portraying the naivety of a newly-turned 18-year-old. Side performances by Rylance and Michael Stuhlbarg (“Call Me By Your Name” 2017) have the audience gripping their seats in dismay and discomfort as well.
The aesthetics of “Bones and All” and its excellent acting performances are what really make this film worth watching. Besides that, the movie lacks structure and lasting impact. There is certainly a poetic aspect to the visceral and vulnerable experience of the “eaters” doing what they do best – consuming their fellow man. But, the intimacy created between the characters doesn’t surmount to enough to imprint in the audience’s psyche. One moment, the film is disclosing just how personal sharing a meal with another cannibal can be, and in the next, the screen is plastered with a bold and somewhat corny display of a state’s acronym to showcase geographical progress.
The expressive notions of the film are also obscured under moments of, for lack of a better term, cheesiness. There were moments throughout the movie where I seriously related certain dialogue and scenes to something a high schooler would slap into their procrastinated student film project. There were few such instances, but they still pulled me away from being engrossed in the film, enough so that I was still thinking about them several minutes into the next scene.
Harsh critiques aside, I would still recommend watching “Bones and All”. Would I ever purchase it for my physical film collection? No. But, it’s enjoyable and beautiful enough for a one-time watch for sure. Just be ready for the lovely sights and sounds that tend to accompany a cannibalistic feast.
Mo is an alumni of Seattle Central and is currently attending the University of Washington with aspirations to pursue a career in journalism and communications while also delving into anthropology. She aims to explore the world and reveal the stories it wishes to tell through her writing and photography/videography. When she’s not captivated by her journalistic pursuits, she loves to go on adventures, create, watch films, and surf.