For this burgeoning cannibal romance, Timothée Chalamet has reconnected with Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino. According to Nicholas Barber, the film transforms from hilarious black humor to a “sincere, romantic indie road movie.”
Timothée Chalamet and Luca Guadagnino collaborated on Call Me by Your Name and are back again for another sweet story of blossoming love. It is once again based on a book, Camille DeAngelis’ Bones & All, and it is once again set in the 1980s, but there is one significant difference in this new adaptation: there are a lot more images of people tearing off human flesh with their teeth.
In the lead role is shy 18-year-old Maren, who recently relocated to rural Virginia with her single father (André Holland). She accepts an invitation to spend the night with one of the popular girls at school, and everything seems to be going smoothly until Guadagnino delivers a line that will leave you gasping and/or grumbling: Maren suckers her new friend’s finger before biting into it and making a crunching sound. Years of knowing about her uncontrollable cannibal urges have left her father unable to deal with them. Maren purchases a Greyhound bus ticket and travels across the nation in search of her mother after he abandons her.
She quickly discovers that her peculiar compulsion is not as uncommon as she first believed. She is informed that she is an “eater” and that as she ages, her hunger will only grow more intense and that she will develop the ability to smell other eaters from a distance by a crumpled, pony-tailed vagabond named Sully (Mark Rylance at his most ominous). He gives her some wise counsel, but the image of him munching a freshly deceased elderly woman in his white underwear almost convinces her that he might not be the best mentor, and his ritual of braiding the hair of his victims into a long rope is the tie-breaker. A much better possibility is the next eater who finds her. Lee, a cool, charming, skinny young rebel portrayed by Chalamet, and Maren steal a blue pick-up truck from someone who, shall we say, no longer needs it, and these blood-soaked Bonnie and Clyde start the road together despite Lee having some sketchy habits of his own.
It is similar to Andrea Arnold’s American Honey but features some of the most brutal and graphic violence scenes imaginable.
The subtle nature of Bones & All is what makes it so alluring. The first few graphic scenes give the impression that Guadagnino has created an outrageously black comedy, one that contrasts the conventions of a coming-of-age romance with those of an X-rated monster movie to produce startling laughs and screams. Bones & All soon stops being ironic, though. It’s not a horror movie or a comedy; instead, it’s an honest, heartwarming indie road movie with bloodthirsty serial killers; to put it another way, it’s Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, but with some of the most dramatic scenes of graphic violence you can imagine. The taboo diet of the eaters is unjustified; there is no mythology around it; there is no mention of vampires or zombies, and there are no law enforcement authorities or monster hunters pursuing the couple. The mild-mannered Maren and Lee discuss pathological cannibalism as casually as they might discuss being lactose intolerant. It is just one of those idiosyncrasies that some people are born with. They make an unexpectedly pleasant company. Aside from a few gory surprises, the tone is upbeat and casual, and the captivating Russell has no trouble keeping the audience’s attention throughout every scene. This should be as much of a star-making movie for Russell as Call Me by Your Name was for Chalamet. There are also a few amazing cameos. Michael Stuhlbarg portrays another eater who is almost as infamously insane as Sully.
In the end, though, Guadagnino’s decision to be so sincere about the graphic subject matter hurts rather than helps the movie. We are left watching two supernatural cannibals meander around sleepy Midwestern and Southeastern backwater towns for a few hours, which begs the question of whether the hopes and fears of two non-supernatural non-cannibals might have been more compelling. He and his screenwriter, David Kajganish, haven’t added an urgent plot or any amazing revelations, so we’re left watching two supernatural cannibals meander around sleepy Midwestern and Southeastern backwater towns. It’s not as though the act of eating flesh serves as a clever allegory for addiction, avarice, sexual preference, or any other topic. Although these issues are hinted at, it is impossible to take Guadagnino’s fanciful world as seriously as he does because, in the end, the flesh-munching is just flesh-munching. There isn’t much substance to his film, which is still original and audaciously twisted.