Bones And All is one of the most gratifyingly uncomfortable yet strangely cathartic experiences I’ve ever seen in my life. While there’s nothing surprisingly ambitious about taking a familiar concept and premise and putting a new spin on it, Luca Guadagnino’s take on it makes for a thematically that is ABSOLUTELY NOT for the faint-hearted or those with weak stomachs.
About that direction, Luca Guadagnino takes the best bits of both Suspiria and Call Me By Your Name and shakes it all together with oddball sensitivity in a delicate but straightforward manner; an elegant balance. Never belaboring the world or circumstances he crafted, he takes the absurdity of the premise and actively both provokes and sells it to us in a way not many other directors could do.
The blood runs hot with this sea of passionate actors and performances; the main three being sure-fire standouts. Taylor Russell…..man. She unearths an intricate level of vulnerability I had yet to see from her previously and whether it’s her chemistry with Timothee or Luca’s direction, it’s a masterful performance amongst all litany other impressive ones too.
Between the wonderful 80’s recreated rustic settings and production design that carefully lays out the parameters of this rabid Reagan administration era-world to the eclectic score, haunting music and sound design to the atmospheric warmth or coolness of the impressionistic cinematography and editing and how it straddles genres and tone expertly between a ceaseless unsettling atmosphere, telegraphed gothic absurdity and bludgeoning sense of aimlessness and abandonment, my skin was crawling from THE VERY SECOND the movie started until it ended. Goosebumps everywhere, even as I write this now.
Presentation is tightly knitted, costumes match the visual aesthetic and time-period backdrop, I was surprised at how natural the dialogue came across as and the less I speak about the violence, the better. It gleefully lives up to its R-rating with flying colors, lots of bludgeoning, stabbing, biting, gnawing, blood and tissues everywhere; the violence in this movie is positively nauseating and it made me look away from the screen a couple of times; I’m normally not a squeamish kind of guy.
Contrasting emotions is the name of the game for a vast majority of this story here for obvious reasons: people are not fond of cannibals. Looking at this movie with no bias goggles attached was kind of difficult but I did get something out of it: the cannibalism as a metaphor for addiction whether drugs, alcohol, or whatever. There's a huge emphasis on parents and, specifically, how their "cannibal trait" is passed down to their children, similar to how addictions can be as well. Addictions come with urges that are insurmountable and must be satisfied which is pretty much the same as what the cannibals experience and it goes hand in hand with the themes of Guadagnino’s other works: erotic appetites, the yearning of a first love, zeal of short-term pleasure, self-discovery, poverty, loneliness and hopelessness among the disenfranchised youth, and how being protected from the world can make it hard to properly enter it.
Screenwriter David Kajganich takes extra precaution in following the blueprints of films like Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde AND the century old tradition of sexualizing monsters and predatory behavior (a practice I loathe heavily), somehow making the unpleasant journey a languid and meaningful one as it does excel in exploring the value of human connection. As the characters are all beautifully crafted shades of black and blue and grey, the film takes something that’s commonly looked down upon and immediately gives us a lens to look at all the characters uniquely in a way that’s both heartbreaking and…..sort of empowering? Themes are never browbeat over the head and there’s enough spacing to allow them to formulate properly, thus
The only downside to the proceedings boils down to how episodic the screenplay comes across like. It has the appeal of a limited TV series with how it’s constructed but unlike Reminiscence, the story is intrinsically engaging from the offset and doesn’t try to twist itself into grotesque, convoluted knots to elevate the material or keep the audiences’ attention. I know some people have described the plot to be aimless and empty due to a couple of scenes but I don’t see it that way.
I will admit looking back, the ending…..should’ve gone a little further than it did. A lot ends up happening in a short amount of time and then it just stops. It didn’t aggravate me a lot as the ending got across exactly what it intended to but dude, come on.
An atmospheric, imperfect odyssey with a haunting depiction of youth drifting along the fringe of society, Bones And All takes a tried and true premise, laced it alongside one of the most divisive, user-unfriendly selling points for anyone to consider watching and then gives you a reason to care. Even if you strip the flesh off the bones here, it’s a movie about gradually embracing differences and what it means to form connections in a unforgiving world.