By Michael Kalafatis
Maren Yearly (Taylor Russell) is a teenager girl who lives with her ostensible strict father Frank (Andre Holland). One day she gets invited by one of her classmates to a sleepover, she manages to go by escaping through the side window of her locked bedroom, which her father always locks when she goes to sleep (an odd thing to do, but eventually will learn the reason). Maren manages to meet her friend and after some time everyone starts talking about various things or painting their nails. But Maren’s attention is elsewhere, she starts to smell her friend, and suddenly bites one of her fingers, everyone is shocked and Maren runs home. Frank decides they need to change town; we realise that this is not the first time that something like this has happened and it won’t be the last time either. These opening scenes perfectly convey the way Bones and All will use every day mundane situations and it will disrupt them in a shocking and unsettling way.
Eventually Frank is unable to continue living with Maren and abandons her, leaving behind her birth certificate. Maren decides to go to Minnesota, which is listed as the birthplace of her mother, who abandoned her when she was still an infant. On her path to locate her mother she meets Lee (Timothée Chalamet), who is also a cannibal. Bones and All is mostly about these two characters, and during its narrative we learn how being a person with cannibalistic tendencies has changed their lives and how they try to cope with who they are.
During Maren’s and Lee’s road thrip they meet other cannibals, like Sully (Mark Rylance) and Jake (Michael Stuhlbarg) both characters are very frightening and exhibit volatile behaviour. Rylance play Sully as quiet and enigmatic character, who Maren does not trust, and Michael Stuhlbarg plays Jake in more intense and menacing way even though his character has limited screen time, he manages to leave a lasting impression.
This is the second horror film by Luca Guadagnino, his first was his previous film Suspiria (2018), a remake of 1977 influential horror film of the same name directed by Dario Argento. Guadagnino’s Suspiria was met with mixed reviews but Bones and All is a better film, because it has a more cohesive narrative, better character development and it does not meander.
Bones and All is scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who have garnered acclaim for working with David Fincher in The Social Network (2010), Gone Girl (2014) and Girl with Dragon Tattoo (2011). On Bones and All their score uses mostly acoustic guitars and becomes an integral part of the film’s landscape. The musical score manages to convey melancholy and longing, two themes that are vital part of the film’s nucleus, while it also creates an atmosphere of dread and horror to make certain scenes scarier. The score also helps the film to convey things that are hard to articulate like moments of introspection or dread.
Guadagnino has created a road movie with element of horror and romance. This fusion of genres surprisingly works, because it’s very hard to finds films that can tell a story in multiple genres without being disappointing or just working partially.
Bones and All is a slow burn road movie with explosive moments of horror and a little bit of romance. It has great performances from its two protagonists Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet, realistic direction from Luca Guadagnino and an elegiac and introspective score that makes the film more effective and scarier.