Bones and All

Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All tells the story of Maren (outstandingly played by Taylor Russell), a young girl who’s abandoned by her father the day after she turns 18. The reason for his departure, which the film makes clear pretty much from the beginning, is that Maren is a cannibal. She has been one her whole life, and her father just can’t bear that anymore. Alone, lost and feeling betrayed, Maren decides to embark on a road trip to find her mother, who had also abandoned her when she was just a baby. Maren is and always has been an outcast. She and her father had to relocate across the country numerous times (whenever she had an “accident”) so she has no long-standing relationships with anyone. While moving through the pleasant but also alienating landscape of the Midwest in 1980s America, with its soft colours and purple skies, she has to fight an internal battle. The girl’s need to feed on human flesh seems to be under control most of the times; after all, she just wants to “be normal” and “not hurt anyone”. But despite her best efforts, the impulse sometimes just takes over and she has no choice but to act on it.

During her journey she meets Sully (Mark Rylance), a sinister and eerie presence, but also the first other cannibal (or better, Eater) she’s met in her life. In fact, Maren had always assumed she was the only one. However, as she continues her trip she discovers that there are other people like her. When she sees Lee (Timothée Chalamet) for the first time, he immediately catches her attention. Solitary, elusive and troubled, Lee is another young Eater who is fighting some internal demons of his own. Although he is rather wary at first, the two ultimately form a connection as he offers to drive Maren all the way to Minnesota to find her mother.

This film can be described in many different ways. It’s a road film. It’s a forbidden love story between two young people. It’s, partially, body horror. It’s ultimately a tale about unconditional acceptance and the deep, desperate, innate need for human connection. At some point in their life, every Eater seems to have accepted an inescapable destiny of eternal loneliness and the impossibility of being understood or, God forbid, loved by anyone. When all you’ve known your whole life is rejection, absence or abuse, hiding a terrible secret that no “ordinary” person would ever accept means that running away and living alone at the margins of society feels like the only possible choice. Kill. Feed. Run Away. Start all over again. That is, until you find a person just like you. Suddenly, it’s possible to build a life for yourselves, a small enclosed world of your own secluded from society and invisible to everyone else, but nonetheless a reassuring and safe space for you and other like-minded people. Relationships are an essential part of life, and this films tries to show us that.

When Lee and Maren are together the film is incredibly tender, exploring their growing affection for each other and the way in which love (sometimes literally) slowly consumes you. They bond over past trauma, they feed together, they protect each other. The flesh-eating sequences can feel very delicate too, when Maren and Lee do it together. The film, in most cases, doesn’t indulge in unnecessary voyeuristic or graphic shots, letting the two young protagonists live their intimacy. This makes the few occasions in which it does venture into a more macabre territory much more effective and meaningful. The camera doesn’t back away from the rawness of the action, managing to make the viewer extremely uncomfortable (also thanks to a well-crafted and very explicit sound design). Can gore be described as “refined”? Well, if it can, this film is the perfect example of just that.

Bones and All, despite the apparently extreme subject matter, is ultimately a film about escaping loneliness and isolation. No matter the scars that your past left on you, no matter how much you feel like you don’t deserve it, you can be loved; not despite, but for the very thing you hate so much about yourself.

“Let’s be people. Let’s be them for a while.”

Written by Chiara Franchin.


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