TL;DR – A modern fairy tale coming-of-age road trip through middle America where two young people find love while eating people because they are cannibals.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
Warning – This film contains scenes that may cause distress
Bones and All Review –
Rarely have I walked out of a film, and my first thoughts were, ‘well, that was a lot!’. However, I think that statement perfectly defines those first moments as the credits rolled and the multitudes of thoughts from the audience leaving the theatre filtered past me. If nothing else, Bones and All is a movie that elicits strong responses from the people who watched it, but I am not sure they were all positive.
So to set the scene, Maren Yearly (Taylor Russell) spends time by herself at high school but finally starts to find some friends. She slips out of the house she is locked into to go to a sleepover, and everything is going well until she bites her friend’s finger off. Her dad Frank (André Holland), gives her 3 minutes to pack before they move, something they have clearly done before. Moving to a new state, Maren wakes up one morning to find her dad missing and only a tape-recorded note left. Maren then has to find her place in the world all alone/ Well, maybe not completely alone because there may be more people like her. But they may not be friendly.
When leaving the cinema, there was one lady that described the film as the “foulest thing [she] had ever watched” and another declared it to be a “modern masterpiece” and sitting here now I can see clearly how both parties came to their vastly different conclusions. I might be one of those insufferable people who watch two extremes and then fall cowardly in the middle, not taking either high road. However, I would sum up my experience with the film as captivating yet appalled.
To begin with, I need to say that this is a stunningly beautiful film. I have seen many shows recently use natural light as a gimmick to obfuscate poor filmmaking. However, here Bones and All is harsh, vibrant, moody, thoughtful, and brooding, all the things you need for a movie dabbling in the magical realism genre. Indeed, this is a film that crashes a lot of different genres together. Coming-of-age, road trip, romance, and horror all coexist here. It becomes a film where you want to see love triumph, but every hug with those exposed throats is full of potential dread.
All of this nuance is captured by a cast giving masterful performances. Maren is the heart of this film, and while I loved Taylor Russell’s work on Lost in Space, she is transcendent here. Which I will say is not an easy job to do, given who the rest of the cast is. To be both an accomplice in murder and a profoundly sympathetic character is a tricky balance to pull off, and she does it. Timothée Chalamet is as charming as you would expect, which given the content, is somewhat confronting. As is the rest of the supporting cast that almost appear as small vignettes but all leave an impact.
However, as much as there are parts of this film that I can deeply respect and champion, I am not sure it works as a whole. As the film oscillates between its horror and romantic aspects, you get a tonal whiplash. This was clearly used with intent in some scenes, and I am not sure it worked. On a personal level, Mark Rylance bears a striking resemblance to my late grandfather, which has not been an issue in a film before, but without getting into spoilers, was a big issue here for me. It was also a film that went light on with its worldbuilding, which hurt the audience’s buy-in. Indeed, this is one of the few films where part of the experience was sitting there and hearing the audience disengage with the film as it went on. All of this felt like a giant anchor that the movie was dragging behind it that it never escaped from.
In the end, do we recommend Bones and All? No, I don’t think I can. I know there is probably an audience for this film out there. I’m just not sure who they might be? If you liked Bones and All, I would recommend to you Mandy.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Bones and All
Directed by – Luca Guadagnino
Screenplay by – David Kajganich
Based on – Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis
Music by – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
Cinematography by – Arseni Khachaturan
Edited by – Marco Costa
Production/Distribution Companies – Frenesy Film Company, Per Capita Productions, The Apartment Pictures, Memo Films, 3 Marys Entertainment, Elafilm, Tenderstories, United Artists Releasing, MGM, Universal Pictures & Warner Bros. Pictures
Starring – Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon Green, Jessica Harper, Jake Horowitz, Anna Cobb & Kendle Coffey
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 18; United States: R