FANTASTIC FEST 2022: Romance Over Cannibalism Shock with ‘Bones & All’

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Bones and All - But Why Tho

It seems like every film I’m reviewing this year from Fantastic Fest is better left entered with little to no information. But none more than the latest from visionary director Luca Guadagnino, Bones & All, based on the novel of the same name by Camille DeAngelis and adapted for the screen by David Kajganich. And that’s because I entered it with little to no information. In fact, all I knew was that it was “the cannibal movie with Timothée Chalamet.” But to reduce it to a cannibal film does the depth of romance and intimacy we see crafted on screen. There just so happens to be cannibals at the center of the story.

Bones & All is a coming-of-age story with a peculiar lead. It tells the story of an 18-year-old girl, Maren (Taylor Russell), finding out who she is without her family and experiencing life unhindered for the first time. Most intensely focused of which is her first love. Maren is learning how to survive on the margins of society, and Lee (Timothée Chalamet) is an intense and disenfranchised drifter with a past he can’t shake. The two embark on a liberating road odyssey, searching for identity and chasing beauty through their own darkness.

For large swaths of the film, Bones & All is a stellar and intimate romance that completely embraces tropes associated with the genre – Ferris wheel kiss and all. But instead of just being a good romance, the cannibalism of it all grabs audiences by the neck, pulls them into the ground, rubs them in the dirt, and clear the loneliness and dread. There are only endings here.

Bones & All is strong and intense but not in the same way other films that feature people-eating people are. It’s intense because of the sense of longing and, more particularly, the fear of being unloved. Instead of showcasing the eaters eating, Guadagnino focuses on the people they’re eating, how they feel after a feast, and the morality in it all. In the first full-on eating scene, Guadagnino doesn’t focus on Russell’s teeth breaking flesh, although stunning sound design makes sure you can hear it. Instead, he pans the camera to the pictures on the dresser, showing the identity of the woman laying as a meal for Guadagnino’s eaters.

This choice to focus on the emotion behind consuming sustenance helps build tension in the film, and it isn’t experienced that same by each eater we meet. While Maren is disturbed by what she has to do and fights guilt because of it, others revel in it, build rituals around it, or even opt into it by choice. This moral investigation isn’t done with grandstanding but a slow creeping understanding that is shown by how Maren reacts to every instance. She is our focus, and the story is investigated through her deep emotional range and a soul-crushing ending.

Bones & All isn’t two genres pulled together, but one seamless story that understands that romance isn’t clean and clear, but instead accepting the ugly parts of others and yourself. It’s about rectifying paths to a future with elements that will always prevent you. The leads just so happen to be cannibals.

Bones & All screened as a part of the Fantastic Fest 2022 programming and is in theaters now.


Bones & All
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Bones & All isn’t two genres pulled together, but one seamless story that understands that romance isn’t clean and clear, but instead accepting the ugly parts of others and yourself. It’s about rectifying paths to a future with elements that will always prevent you. The leads just so happen to be cannibals.

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