Bones and All

Bones and All
Bones and All
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A scene in the beginning of “Bones and All” has sounds like flesh being eaten hungrily. The director, Luca Guadagnino, avoids showing us most of the visual horror by requesting that we turn away from the terrible feeding. He keeps her humanity by a camera that looks at photos of an old woman—on vacation or with loved ones—of one that’s already dead, turned into food for two starving cannibals. She was alive once.

In this beautiful coming-of-age romance which is also voracious, photographical proofs of a person’s history are strongly emphasized as motif. These printed pictures, often found in a car or hidden away in a drawer remind the viewer that a single entity contains many sides: some perpetrators were once children while those they prey upon may themselves later leave families behind them. With each bite there is an unsettlingly intimate bond.

Maren (Taylor Russell) ingests others across state lines throughout the 1980s so when she hits 18 her father runs off leaving only a tape about her first acts as cannibal and birth certificate. Their father-daughter relationship reminds one of the one in Swedish vampire drama “Let the Right One In,” even though she knows what she desires and hence tried to stop it before it got out of control.

But Maren discovers now that her urge to eat human flesh is not just something she can do nothing about but rather something inherent to her nature, unchangeable but manageable. They identify each other by smell as “Eaters”. Nevertheless there are some outsiders who have regulations stopping them from eating their own kind while others don’t care much about ethics.

Guadagnino works from screenwriter David Kajganich’s adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’ novel and creates an earthy atmosphere where love stories can emerge without seeming disconnected from reality. Terrence Malick-style landscapes beneath purple skies—the heartland of America in all its unrefined, vast and sparsely populated glory—serve as the setting of conflicted lovers. The country side enchants through a skillful camera lens.

A red haired eater who loves killing without feeling any guilt is Lee (Timothée Chalamet), the heartthrob at hand. He meets Maren while on his way home to Kentucky where shreds of his past existence still haunt him. Instead, as partners in crime they evolve into young lovers driven by youthful desires who disagree about how best to satiate themselves.

Maren’s performance is developed with innocence and guilt by the formidable Russell who had earlier impressed us with “Waves”. Her moral dilemma intertwines with the fear of first love. By espousing the rationality of Lee’s acts which he cares less about their death so that they can eat together turns out to be an ideological gap for her.

Conversely, Chalamet remains infallibly charming but doesn’t stretch his emotional range much. This is nothing more than another one of those cool-but-tortured young men whom he has now played in countless critically acclaimed films since his rise to fame.

Also, there is Sully (played by Mark Rylance), another strange eating character who initiates the self-discovery journey of Maren as a cannibal in his own way. The main distinguishing feature of Rylance’s performance as an important actor here is that it would be impossible to believe that Sully is just an invention. His clothes adorned with bizarre trinkets and other idiosyncrasies have a ‘lived-in’ feel to them. He has soaked himself in blood so often that he has given them this name as a keepsake of all those whom he has eaten. 

Guadagnino’s long-time associate Michael Stuhlbarg and director David Gordon Green, appearing not as directors but actors, make chilling cameos; thus, they contribute to the feeling that Guadagnino’s creativity becomes haunted by genre experimentation in Suspiria and love stories like Call Me By Your Name or A Bigger Splash. 

What we see in these pictures which Lee and Maren find while moving through several states within one summer: though they are informative about their subjects, the photos can seem shallow or limited. In fact, Bones and All begins with images of paintings showing landscapes beyond the walls where Maren goes to school – this serves as an example of how such renditions are merely versions of reality. The same goes for these photographs which show only a fraction of whole beings confined within the frames made at time immemorial on earth: even if they were dead on midnight; however, people change afterwards.

It is during most part of its running time that “Bones and All” unfolds itself like a can’t-look-away gripping experience. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in its sumptuously restrained visuals, volatile relationship dynamics between believable couple and even jarringly blunt graphic scenes.

However, at Minnesota whereby Maren initially belonged before meeting her family member leads to a confrontation, the film eventually loses momentum, through choppy flashbacks that dominate the closing sections of what may be Guadagnino’s latest movie. The heart-to-heart between the cannibalistic lovebirds where they decide to try out a normal existence seems again over-explained as if it was some unspoken secret.

The meaning of this metaphor is that there will always be someone who can relate to one’s misery regardless of how alone or alienated we feel about ourselves or need to run away from home. Based on these philosophical preoccupations (among other pun-related reasons), “Bones and All” could easily have been named with another fall season release – “All the Beauty and Bloodshed.”

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