“Bones and All” bites with chilling, thought-provoking love story

Sage Dunlap, Life and Arts Associate Editor

Making its theatrical release Nov. 18, “Bones and All” follows two outcasts on a cross-country road trip as they connect over their shared hunger for self-understanding, companionship and other humans. 

From director Luca Guadagnino of “Call Me by Your Name” and “Suspiria”, the romantic horror film depicts the devastating love story of Maren and Lee — two “eaters” cast to the edge of society due to their cannibalistic urges. Despite plenty of gore, the film refrains from falling back on the typical frights of cannibalism stories, instead divulging how two misunderstood characters come of age and help one another navigate their own identities.

Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet share captivating on-screen chemistry as Maren and Lee. Through intimate dialogue and honest moments of romantic connection, the pair beautifully capture the naivety and recklessness of youth and early love. However, Russell stands out among the cast, bringing the psychological turmoil of her character to the surface by showcasing both vulnerability and resentment at her circumstances. In one scene in which the character explodes after reuniting with her mother — also an eater — Russell gives an evocative monologue that will leave viewers sympathizing with her character’s feelings of abandonment. 

The pair’s nationwide travels give way to picturesque landscape shots with visuals that perfectly suit the film’s slow pacing. Sprawling fields and wide-open country roads swallow the two characters, showcasing how Guadagnino utilizes vast spaces to echo their feelings of isolation. As Maren and Lee traverse through isolated rural towns, occasionally stopping by old-school diners and carnivals, the pair exchange stories and bond over their shared identities, resulting in a gradual connection and reprieve from their long-lived loneliness. 

Despite occasionally slow pacing, the meditative tone of the film works to make moments of horror more effective. Jump scares and unsettling situations — many of which can be attributed to eater Sully, played by Mark Rylance — abruptly cut long stretches of dialogue and character building. However, these unexpected scares did not take away from the film’s heartfelt storytelling, instead giving nuance and energy to the film, working to keep viewers on their toes. 

The incredibly character-driven film allows viewers to sympathize with two supernatural characters who would typically be treated as villains or monsters in most horror projects. Instead of emphasizing the destruction of their cannibalism, the film focuses on how this inherited trait leaves Maren and Lee feeling tortured by their need for human flesh — an internal conflict that drives the individuals together. Guadagnino utilizes cannibalism as a vehicle to explore the universal human emotions of loneliness and guilt, resulting in thought-provoking commentary on the importance of companionship and self-exploration. 

4 ½  chunks of flesh out of 5