Director Luca Guadagnino combines his most recent passions into a strange, alluring cocktail of young love and horror. Bones and All is thought-provoking, terrifying, and heartbreaking in equal measure.
This is Guadagnino's first American-set film. He creates a subtle portrait of the mid-west, small-town United States. This 1980s landscape has been hollowed out by addiction and modern progress. It leaves few options for the young people who inhabit it. It also leaves few options for "eaters," those people afflicted with the need to eat people.
As the film opens, young Maren (Taylor Russell) is abandoned by her father (André Holland) after she attacks a teenage girl. He can no longer help her and her condition, leaving her a cassette tape of her history with this affliction. The film doesn't provide an explanation for what is happening to Maren, leaving it something she has to work through. Maren searches out for her mother, who is an "eater", in search of answers.
One night she meets Sully (Mark Rylance), who can smell her from a ways away. He teaches her how to smell other "eaters." She leaves in the middle of the night and soon meets Lee (Timothée Chalamet). The two hit the road in search of a life and stability they likely cannot have.
The film continues that thread of hopelessness throughout. Guadagnino never shies away from the graphic nature of their feeding. The combination is fascinating, carrying into the character of Lee. Chalamet can be sincerely charming one moment and then use that to lure his next meal.
Russell is wonderful as Maren, making good on the promise she has shown in films like Escape Room and Waves. Her face shows so much fear and curiosity of the uncontrollable compulsion that haunts her. She gives Maren an inner conflict that compels us to stay with her even when she has to kill others.
Throughout their travels, the film takes time for some brief but memorable detours, all featuring great supporting performances. Michael Stuhlbarg and David Gorden Green are intensely unsettling as other "eaters" they meet one night. Chloë Sevigny gives a shocking and heartbreaking performance as Maren's mother.
The delicate and tender score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is another highlight. The costumes by Giulia Piersanti are thoughtful extensions of each character's psyche. The cinematography from the young Arseni Khachaturan gives the film a needed groundedness, often using natural light to capture the beauty and horror of this story.
Bones and All confirms Guadagnino as more than just a one-time horror director. He has created a wonderfully bizarre film full of the intensity of young love, the horror of cannabilism, and the deteriorating landscape of America.