‘Bones and All’ review: Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell scheme to serve a coming-of-age cannibal romance 

Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell in a scene from ‘Bones and All’
| Photo Credit: Prime Video

Timothée Chalamet enchanted the audience in his debut feature as Elio Perlman cycling around in the Italian countryside in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name; a sensual queer love story set in the early 80s. Now, the actor-director duo reunite again to narrate a homoerotic tale set in the wastelands of Ronald Reagan’s America, and this time around it looks like the cannibalistic fantasies were restricted to the sets.

Maren Yearly (Taylor Russell) is busy battling social hierarchies in her high school and defying her father, Frank Yearly’s (André Holland) rules while trying to tame her irresistible urge to chomp on human flesh. Maren, in her attempts to integrate with people her age, finds herself at a friend’s sleepover admiring a girl’s manicure; she gently places the girl’s finger in her mouth, and in a moment of weakness, bites it leaving a trail of blood as she rushes back home to inform her father about the tragedy. Maren is an “eater”, a person who inherits the hunger for human flesh from their family’s bloodline, and in this case, it is her absent mother’s curse that upends Maren’s life.

Bones and All (English)

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell, Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, Chloë Sevigny, André Holland

Runtime: 150 minutes

Storyline: Love blossoms between a young woman on the margins of society and a disenfranchised drifter as they embark on a 3,000-mile odyssey through the backroads of America

While her father is protective and helps Maren escape the cops, he is increasingly tired of her antics and leaves her to fend for herself on the morning of her eighteenth birthday along with a cassette tape explaining the reasons for his desertion. As Maren sets out on a journey in search of her mother through several rural towns, we are introduced to other eaters like Sully (Mark Rylance) who revel in feasting in the back alleys of a conservative America. 

In the parking lot of a convenience store, Maren meets Lee (Timothée Chalamet) thanks to her heightened sense of smell, as an eater who helps her spot her kind. The duo sets off in search of Maren’s mother while taking breaks to feast on fresh carcasses. 

Luca Guadagnino invites the audience to ponder over the interactions between queer people living in an America where heteronormativity suffocates the countryside. In an attempt to viscerally examine human consciousness, he occasionally gets lost in his beautifully-shot vast American landscapes. His attempt at turning cannibalism into an allegory for mental illness is interesting, but it is overshadowed by the elements of myriad themes he seeks to address in a couple of hours.

While Guadagnino seems enthusiastic in serving a socio-political commentary he is blind to the issue of race; he treats Maren, a queer black teen in search of her mother, and Lee — a white boy who was forced to leave his family behind —in a similar fashion, and in the process drives a wedge between the audience and the characters. The disengagement is worsened when the movie, sans any rules for its world-building, starts to take itself too seriously and comes across as pretentious.

But the actors reel you back in; Taylor is magnificent as the shy teenager who does not hesitate to gorge on the human body, and Timothée complements her character in his oversized jeans and red streaks in his hair that are radiantly captured against the beautiful landscapes by Arseni Khachaturan’s lens.

Based on Camille DeAngelis’ book of the same name, the 150-minute movie is true to the themes of its source material and makes a convincing case to extend your love and sympathies to two forlorn teenagers stuck in a rickety car on the roads of ‘80s America.

Bones and All is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video

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