By: Amanda Guarragi
There can be times when loneliness can affect many aspects of our lives. Some can feel lonely surrounded by others, some feel lonely but find it comforting, and others are constantly seeking something to fill their emptiness. It can also stem from not fully understanding who you are or questioning your life purpose. In Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All, two lonely cannibals find each other and explore different cravings. Through their loneliness Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timotheé Chalament) have survived life as “eaters” and have approached their urges in their way. When they come together, those morals are tested, along with understanding the meaning of loving someone’s flaws. Guadagnino created an ominous atmosphere for the cannibals. But, also an incredibly vulnerable one, where Russell and Chalamet were stripped of any excess. Their chemistry and open conversations about being what they are made for some beautiful moments.
The film begins with paintings as the credits roll, and there’s an instant familiarity with the artistic side of Guadagnino. Without doing much, he sets many locations for Maren and Russell acts like she is an outcast at this school. She wants to make friends, but she doesn’t understand her urges. When Maren goes to a sleepover (without her father knowing), she gets close to one of the girls. She asks about her past, but Maren is detached; her mind wanders because of her heightened sense of smell by inhaling her scent. The look of carnal desire on Russell’s face says more than words ever could. There’s a mixed wave of lust and discomfort while watching her, which is confusing. Then without thinking, she takes the girl’s finger into her mouth, and blood gushes everywhere. Guadagnino expertly combines grotesque imagery with sensuality to heighten every emotion in you. It’s impossible to look away at any point because it’s mesmerizing.
Guadagnino does highlight the morality of these characters. They do contemplate whom they eat. Someone like Maren hasn’t fed at all, and it feels like a coming-of-age story for her. The older “eater” named Sully (Mark Rylance) only feeds on people who are about to die because he can smell them. Then there’s Lee, who only feeds on bad people or people without families. The “eaters” can also track each other, which is problematic for Maren. Sully takes an interest in her out of his loneliness in finding someone he can fully be himself with. There’s a hint of desperation, that exits Rylance’s voice whenever he’s around Maren. He truly has one of the most chilling performances of the year. When Maren meets Lee unexpectedly at a superstore, they click instantly. The chemistry between Russell and Chalamet is electric, and they didn’t have to say much to sell that they were that connected. Guadagnino also knows how to capture intimate moments through glances and stolen smiles, which is what he did through Maren’s perspective. It’s visually implied that she had been longing for him the entire road trip to find her birth mother.
At times Bones and All can feel rushed by glossing over moments that would have helped Maren and Lee connect on screen a bit more. If anything, more time should have been spent building their relationship because of how magnetic their screen presence was. Even though there was tension between the two, it felt like a struggle to focus on cannibalism or their relationship. Ultimately, this story is about Maren and her discovering what it means to be an individual living with this condition in this world. What it means to fully be herself, especially with someone she truly loves and sees her for who she is, after years of not being accepted by anyone. Russell gives a stunning performance, while Chalamet takes a back seat with his charm as Lee. They learn from each other and adapt to a world that doesn’t understand the complexities of living. It is a beautiful love story with a heartbreaking message that to love anyone you have to love their flaws, bones and all.