REVIEW: ‘Bones and All’ Is a Devouring Love Story
5/5 bone crunches
Bones and All is the latest from Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino and with it comes a bone-curdling crunch that will both break your heart and make you glad you didn’t eat before watching the film. Based on the Camille DeAngelis novel of the same name, the movie is a visionary love letter to the outcasts of the world while staying true (in some capacity) to the source material.
We follow Maren (Taylor Russell) as she is abandoned by her father (André Holland) at the age of 18. He leaves after she “does it again,” and they have to pack up and leave their home, and she’s forced to come to terms with her own otherism as well as what it means to be left to the wayside.
Maren is an “eater,” is someone who seemingly has an overwhelming need to consume human flesh. In the novel, it is described as something that they cannot control or stop, and whoever is in Maren’s path is in danger. The movie is a bit more subtle, though the concept of being an eater is still not the cannibals we’ve come to know in things like Silence of the Lambs, but more like a compulsion that they have to feed or they will eventually lose control of it.
On her journey, she meets Sully (Mark Rylance), another eater like herself, and she can instantly tell that she cannot trust him, but within that same day, she meets another of her kind named Lee (Timothée Chalamet). Going from a life of feeling completely alone and like the only one to meeting two different people who are just like her in the same day is a bit of a shock to Maren, and we get to follow her as she searches for answers, looks for her mother, and comes to terms with what she is.
A love story
The Luca Guadagnino film is, at its core, a story about finding love and acceptance in this world and it is more of a love story than the novel. While the book was about Maren searching for answers, the film is that plus some. We get to see Maren and Lee explore their love for each other and their desire to find what is “normal” for them even though they are aware that they can never live just a normal existence as eaters.
And it feels like a doomed romance from the start but one that we want for Maren. She’s been so pushed aside and cast out her entire life, mainly by her father who tried to “protect” her by keeping her in the dark, that when she finally finds someone who accepts her and is willing to take her wherever she wants to go, she clings to him. And Lee willingly accepts it as someone who has also been an outcast his entire life. They found each other and that’s the kind of love story that we know can’t work but crave anyway.
Taylor Russell is a star
This is Maren’s story. She’s who we follow and who we root for just as the novel was, and Taylor Russell brings her shy nature to life in a way that explodes on screen when she begins to come into her own. There’s a moment later in the film that has Maren fighting with Lee and she’s yelling about her mother, and it is such a shock from the quiet girl we saw from the start of the film that it is jarring (as it is supposed to be).
Russell’s quiet performance is one that will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater, sinking its teeth into you. Maren isn’t an easy character to play. In the novel, all of what we learn is in her head as we’re reading it in first person. So in the film, a lot of that internalization has to come out in different ways and Russell nails her trepidation as well as her desire to find a place for herself in this world and her own feelings for Lee. It’s going to be amazing to see Russell shine in the rest of her career.
The appeal of Timothée Chalamet and Luca Guadagnino
Chalamet and Guadagnino have worked together before with Call Me By Your Name, the film adaptation of the André Aciman novel. And their second collaboration with Bones and All proves that theirs is a working relationship that shines on screen. Lee is a complicated guy. He seems so strong and powerful in his status as an eater, but as we see his façade crack, Chalamet really shines.
The film has the whimsy of a road trip romance with the lurking horror that, at any moment, our protagonists are going to have to feed, and it is a fear that weighs them down, as well. Both Lee and Maren question whether or not they are “good” or “bad” people throughout the movie for something that is completely out of their control, and it is beautifully woven into Lee’s storyline as we begin to learn (along with Maren) more about him and who he is willing to feast on.
Changes from the books
First off, this movie is very different from the book right off the bat, and I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing. The film changes one thing that I didn’t like in the novel and gives us a new meaning to the title that works. Lee’s storyline in the film is different from in the book, and I wouldn’t say that they include more of him because he’s Timothée Chalamet, but his storyline isn’t as stiff as it felt in the novel.
Lee’s ending is different in the movie, and I like it a lot more than what transpires in the novel because it doesn’t feel like Maren’s storyline damned her in the end. The film gives her hope and a power over her own fate that I really enjoyed.
Another change that works is the concept of Bones and All. In the novel, it seems as if this desire that the eaters possess comes as something of a superpower, where they can devour a person completely (bones and all, if you will) within minutes. There’s a part of the novel that says that Lee has it down to seven minutes, including cleanup. But in the film, they meet Jake (Michael Stuhlbarg), and he explains what it means to fully become an eater and consume people that completely, while Maren and Lee haven’t reached that point yet. It’s a change I like, especially in what it means for Maren and Lee.
Having read the book first, though, I would suggest maybe reading the book after seeing Bones and All if you haven’t read it yet.
Bones and All has yet again proven that Luca Guadagnino is a powerhouse, and his ability to adapt novels into beautifully cinematic stories is unmatched. This is a must-see, and Bones and All hits theaters on November 23, 2022.
(featured image: MGM)
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