Bones and All review | Cannibal tale lacking bite

Luca Guadagnino reunites with Timothée Chalamet in a tender cannibal romance that lacks bite, and its themes aren't fleshed out enough. 



Bones and All reunites Luca Guadagnino with Timothée Chalamet in a tender cannibal romance that lacks bite and fleshed-out themes. 

Horror films have always provided an excellent lens to examine youth and even love. Cannibalism has equally provided a juicy way of exploring lust, desire and sexual awakenings, as seen in Julia Ducornau’s exemplary Raw. Bones and All seemingly wants to repeat the success of Raw, but be a much more romantic affair. It sometimes succeeds, but Luca Guadagnino’s new film is mostly empty fodder with a little gore. 

Maren (Taylor Russell) is a cannibal. Her father (André Holland) is keen on keeping her safe, and the pair move every time Maren gives in to her hunger for human flesh. One morning, Maren wakes up to an empty house and a tape from her father explaining why he can’t look after Maren anymore. And so begins Maren’s journey to find her birth mother. Timothée Chalamet’s rogue Lee joins her, and the two fall in love. 

Bones and All has a lot going for it on paper. If Call Me By Your Name was an achingly tender look at first love and Suspiria was Guadagnino’s deep-dive into hard-core, surrealist horror, Bones and All is a little bit of both, but it can’t find the right balance of the two. There’s enough grisly gore to put off people not enticed by the cannibal side of the plot, but not enough to be a focal point for fans of the superb Suspiria

Bones-and-All (1)

Credit: MGM

Thankfully, all the performances are on point. Taylor Russell, so convincing and heartbreaking in 2019’s Waves, is mesmerising as Maren. She’s our eyes into the story and keeps us grounded in reality even when the plot threatens to go off the rails completely. Chalamet is good, but frustratingly one note until it’s too late. I never fully bought or understood their attraction and love. 

Mark Rylance and Michael Stuhlbarg also pop in to steal some scenes. Mark Rylance specifically gets to create a creepy, downright disturbing character here. Less well served are Chloë Sevigny and Holland. Their appearances are too brief and with so many famous actors in one film, Bones and All begins to feel overstuffed. 

To quote John Green, falling in love is like falling asleep, slowly, and then all at once. It’s a little syrupy way of putting it, but it’s also very accurate. Shame it doesn’t apply to Bones and All in which Maren and Lee love each seemingly only because they’re both cannibals. Sure, Maren has found her people in Lee, they’re the same, but for a filmmaker like Guadagnino, Bones and All feels completely sanitised of any sexual chemistry. 

It’s not all bad though. The gore, when it comes, is very satisfying. There are great, memorable individual moments, but they don’t form an emotionally coherent whole. Bones and All also drags badly in the middle, when it tries to give our young lovers something to do. Guadagnino is a visually dynamic filmmaker, and Arseni Khachaturian’s cinematography is impressive, but I couldn’t help but be bored. I often found myself admiring the film more than actively enjoying it. 

Then there’s the inevitable elephant in the room. Armie Hammer’s cannibalistic fantasies and abuse hang above Bones and All like a dark cloud. Hammer starred opposite Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name, which remains a wonderful film. It’s impossible to ignore the accusations against him, even if he has nothing to do with the production and the overall quality of Bones and All, but the lack of acknowledging them leads to an awkward watch. We’re all thinking about it as the kids tear off chunks of flesh. 

Never as seductive as Suspiria and nowhere near as romantic as Call Me By Your Name, Bones and All is a missed opportunity. What should have been a chance for Guadagnino to mix all his interests into a fascinating, appealing medley turns out to be a bore. What a shame, but Bones and All is still worth your time, for the star-making performance by Taylor Russell alone. 

Bones and All screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival and is released in UK cinemas November 23.

Leave a Reply

More like this