Bones and All

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Bones and All
dir Luca Guadagnino
scr David Kajganich
prd Luca Guadagnino, Theresa Park, Lorenzo Mieli, Francesco Melzi d'Eril, Gabriele Moratti
with Taylor Russell, Timothee Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Gordon Green, Anna Cobb, Andre Holland, Chloe Sevigny, Jessica Harper, Jake Horowitz, Kendle Coffey, Francesca Scorsese
release US/UK 23.Nov.22
22/US 2h10

rylance stuhlbarg sevigny
venice film fest

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russell and chalamet
Essentially a romantic horror road movie, this offbeat drama delights in provoking extreme reactions with its vampiric premise. But it's also almost jarringly grounded, with authentic situations and characters who may not be likeable but are strongly sympthetic. Director Luca Guadagnino is always terrific at cutting through surfaces to find human connections and deeper societal truths. So while this film gets very grisly indeed, it remains surprisingly sweet.
In late-1980s Virginia, Maren (Russell) lives with her father (Holland), moving frequently because she can't stop biting people. But it's more than that, and at 18 she sets off to find her mother. Crossing the country, she meets the creepy Sully (Rylance), who smelled her half a mile away, identifying her as a fellow eater. But his lessons leave her uneasy. So she keeps moving, connecting with Lee (Chalamet), a less sinister eater who joins her quest. They meet others along the road before finally finding Maren's mother (Sevigny) in Minnesota. And that changes everything.
Establishing a grimy aesthetic, Guadagnino never makes this remotely glamorous, despite his gorgeous young stars. From their clanky pickup to Lee's hobo-chic outfit, the premise deploys tatty, sinister vibes as Maren and Lee move from town to town, sniffing out people who share their own rather ghastly stories. At the centre, this is an awkward romance between two people who have learned to avoid connections. And as the story progresses, a thriller element begins to come into focus in Sully's refusal to take Maren's "no" for an answer.

Performances are appealingly edgy, depicting people who are fascinating but dangerous. Watching Maren and Lee get near enough to touch is scary, because of what might happen next. Russell has terrific soulfulness, as Maren's yearning to find her place drives the narrative forward. She's naturally wary of everyone, even the generously friendly Lee, whom Chalamet plays with a distracted, loose-limbed charm. By contrast, Rylance's syrupy Sully is seriously yucky, and Stuhlbarg and Green have fun as a pair of fellow outcasts.

Because this is essentially a love story, there are startlingly adorable moments interspersed between the grisliness, which thankfully is mostly off-camera (sound effects notwithstanding). And the story also nods to themes of identity, addiction and legacy, most strikingly in Sevigny's jaw-dropping cameo. But fans of the macabre will enjoy the grotesque extremes, including the implications of the title. And they'll be surprised that Guadagnino finds ways to warm the heart too.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 2.Sep.22 vff

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall