LFF2022 Review: Bones and All

Year: 2022

Runtime: 130 minutes

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Writer: David Kajganich (Based on Bones and All by Camille DeAngelis)

Starring: Taylor Russell, Timothee Chalamet, Mark Rylance

By Calum Cooper

Hybridisation is a thrilling aspect to any new art. We always find inspiration in the creations of others, often mixing ideas to create something new. It’s a discipline that goes back centuries. The hybridisation present in “Bones and All” (2022) – a romantic horror road trip movie – sounds paradoxical to say the least. Yet the two juxtaposing genres meld together in a balancing act that’s both gruesome and oddly beautiful, resulting in one of London Film Festival’s best films!

Set in Reagan’s America, Maren (Taylor Russell) is a recently turned 18-year-old who has moved around constantly throughout her life. We find out early on, through a wonderful and shocking montage that it’s because of her sporadic cannibalism. Her father abandons her when she comes of age, leaving behind some money so she can continue to remain mobile and stay hidden from a society that would be terrified of her. On her travels, she meets Lee (Timothee Chalamet), a dashing free spirit who also happens to be a cannibal. As such, the two travel together on a road trip that features moral questions and a budding romance between them.

“Bones and All” is not always a pleasant watch, as one can gather from its cannibalistic teen premise. Certainly the scenes of feasting and gore showcased are visceral, with a ferocity worthy of Julia Ducournanu. Although the film doesn’t glamorise or, god forbid, fetishise cannibalism, or the acts Maren and Lee have to partake in to fulfil their urges, it also doesn’t hold back on this front either. It is a bloody business, and director Luca Guadagnino utilises slow build ups and the plights of his characters to highlight just how horrific these moments are.

Taylor Russell (left) as Maren and Timothée Chalamet (right) as Lee in BONES AND ALL, directed by Luca Guadagnino, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This makes the film’s overall romantic vibes all the more surprising. For, like the best cannibalistic films, such as “Raw” (2017), the cannibalism isn’t the point. Behind the undeniably graphic content is a sincere, touching romance about the need to belong. In a world that rejects the likes of Maren and Lee, their connection becomes something extra wonderful. It’s not just lust or a feeling of kindred spirits, rather it is true companionship in the middle of intense isolation; a reassuring constant in a storm of anxious uncertainty and self-loathing. It takes a true visionary to present something as taboo as cannibalism and be able to find an impossible beauty underneath it all.

Guadagnino and team go the extra mile in highlighting this beauty in spite of the gruesomeness. The grainy look of the cinematography captures a nostalgic angle to the 80s setting, while also adding a romanticised layer to Maren and Lee’s interactions. There is a visual delicacy to the colour palette, while Arseni Khachaturan’s cinematography would feel at home in a sun-drenched rom com. It truly lends credence to the term every frame is a painting. Elevating this to grander heights of absorption is the soothing, sensational score from Trent Renzor and Atticus Ross. You almost forget the carnal grotesqueness as you become so lost in the gentle gorgeousness of the film’s craftsmanship.

““Bones and All” is a masterclass of emotional engagement and genre fusion. Combining tones and artistic choices that have no right to be together, yet dazzle in spite of this, Guadagnino has created something harrowing and heart-wrenching, but also spellbindingly gorgeous.”

The characters are lost within this film’s world, but their plights are treated with gracefulness. These are characters who spend the story wondering if they are bad people, or if they are destined to live on the margins of a society who would surely be terrified of them. This is a film that argues everyone has a place to belong, even if it is just to another person. The tenderness in which the script treats its complex leads, who are as fragile and lost as they are dangerously hungry, is nothing if not heartfelt.

The performances of the cast elevate the odd intimacy of which we engage with them. Of course Timothee Chalamet is magnificent. Lee is a vulnerable man who hides behind a mask of disconnected masculinity. Chalamet captures him with exquisite sensitivity. Yet this is Taylor Russell’s film, for she steals every scene she is in. A character of deep emotional turmoil with an itch to find her place, Russell gets down Maren’s complexities to a tee. It’s a sensational breakthrough of a performance. Opposite Chalamet, their chemistry is exquisite. Even opposite someone with the calibre of Mark Rylance, who turns in a uniquely terrifying performance, Russell commands every frame of the scene.

Following these spectacular performances down a path of gorgeous visuals, uncomfortable gore, and heartaching themes is an unexpected, but nevertheless titanic pleasure. “Bones and All” is a masterclass of emotional engagement and genre fusion. Combining tones and artistic choices that have no right to be together, yet dazzle in spite of this, Guadagnino has created something harrowing and heart-wrenching, but also spellbindingly gorgeous. Whether it’s due to the performances, the grittiness, or the creative heart amongst it all, “Bones and All” is going to linger in audience psyches long after the credits roll.

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