This review contains spoilers.
Loneliness is an identity that can be camouflaged across many faces, including cannibals. What I admire most about Luca Guadagnino’s work is the intrusiveness he provides to his filmmaking that somehow feels normalized. I experienced this with Call Me By Your Name (2017), witnessing a romance blossom between two impossible lovers, as if a secret, and again in Suspiria (2018), the never ending dance routine that the viewer stumbles into, gazing at a nightmarish rehearsal.
In Bones and All (2022), we witness Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timothee Chalamet), cannibals, probe the struggle of wanting to love but also needing to eat. Guadagnino somehow achieves this narrative to make me empathize with a situation that should be hopeless.
During Bones, the story explores what loneliness looks like in the face of cannibalism. Guadagnino prepares us to not just look at eating people, but what a love story looks like for cannibalism, or an “eater”, and ultimately the forced solitude that occurs when defined by a lethal hunger.
I was especially taken aback just by how loneliness transforms into so many different characters. Maren being estranged from both parents, Lee on the run, Maren’s father picking up and starting new every few years and finally leaving his daughter astray, Kayla, Lee’s sister wishing he would come home, Maren’s mother being isolated in a psych ward, even Sully, the eater who stalks Maren, defines a loneliness as he mourns the fact he had never eaten with someone before.
Guadagnino somehow achieves this narrative by going all the way in its horrific details, but always leaving them so tender, beginning by Maren, the main lead, instilling an innocence casted upon the movie, making her actions understandable and her struggle forgiven.
I believe this narrative was able to exceed because it was in the role of a young girl, again examining the moodiness of growing up and the supposed juvenility that takes form when the character is a cannibal. In this way, Russell is the anchor of this film, and is the catalyst for how a horrifying trait can be redeemable when explored through someone who is falling in love, looking for their estranged mother, and dealing with trials and tribulations of looking at themselves for the first time as an eater.
The love story follows lead and takes traction with both the tenderness and loneliness, offering an endless escapade of wondering if happiness exists as an eater. Though the romance between the two leads occurred fast, the extreme themes of the storyline exacerbated their connection in a short amount of time. I think exploring America’s backroads and dissecting their youth through a twisted fate also reimagined their romance as something not that alarming. In a world full of people who are nothing like you, what else are you supposed to do?
The imagery is also stunning as is choppy, as if Guadagnino pieced together a series of photographs, trying to make sense of something so gruesome at the same time pretty. To mention the Midwest again, capturing the stillness of the countryside is another notion to loneliness that stands so effortlessly. It’s so sleepy, but it slithers right underneath you.
The only criticism I may have is the lack of depth in the storyline involving the earlier years of both Russell and Chalamet’s characters, though I am not mad at it entirely because similar to Guadagnino’s filmmaking, he oftentimes leaves things unsaid or unresponsive, an imperfection to the story that somehow makes sense, an invasion of privacy, getting so close to the protagonist only to remember they are not real.
While a horror love story, it was not the aspects of cannibalism or the romantic elements that made this movie resonate, but the extremes to even try and empathize with these characters, and capturing their story so delicately, despite horrific.