Bones and All

by Toby Woollaston

Verdict: Om nom nom.

A film about cannibalism mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but before you dismiss this as a schlocky gore fest think again. In the same way Tomas Alfredson ushered a vampire story into our contemporary world with his perfectly balanced Let the Right One In, Bones and All confidently walks the fine line between fantasy, horror, and the real world.

Yes, Bones and All is many things: a road film, a horror film, a family drama, but most of all it’s a love story about a couple of disenfranchised youths who find each other at the limits of American marginalised life. At its heart is Maren (played by relative newcomer Taylor Russell), a teenage girl with an unfortunate compulsion to gnaw on human flesh. It’s a disorder that doesn’t pair well with teenage sleepovers and popsicle-flavoured fingers. What follows is a finger-licking good (but grizzly) scene that proves to be one incident too much for her distressed father who casts her out onto the street.

Enter fellow cannibal Sully (the reliable Mark Rylance), who slithers into her orbit as a surrogate father figure and introduces her to the underground laws of cannibalism. Misunderstood but creepy, he is one of many untrustworthy characters who populate this increasingly sinister world. Thankfully, respite comes in the form of Lee (Timothée Chalamet), a free-spirited scruff with who Maren finds affinity.

Director Luca Guadagnino’s partnership with screenwriter David Kajganich brings to this film much of the moody intensity and inventive cinematic flourishes they developed in their underrated reinvention of Dario Argento’s original Suspiria. It’s heady stuff and undoubtedly where this film operates best.

But the story’s real meat lies with Maren and Lee’s relationship. Guadagnino is no stranger to love stories, having successfully helmed Call Me By Your Name (which also stars Chalamet) to critical success. Bones and All somehow manages to sit between the two, weaving a love story into a body horror. It’s an uneasy mix that’ll have your mind scrambling for allegories buried beneath its skin—or at the least, a redemptive reason for watching a film about human flesh consumption. I’m not sure there is one. But that didn’t matter to me, because while its subject matter made me lose my appetite, I still enjoyed gobbling this film up.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.