Movies From Swank: Bones and All

Will SorgMovie Guy

Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s cannibal, coming of age, romance, road trip, horror, drama Bones and All is just as chaotically layered as this description implies. The film follows Maren, played by Taylor Russel, as she travels through the American countryside. Maren is an “Eater,” someone who is a compulsive cannibal unable to control her desire for human flesh. Maren meets Lee, played by Timothee Chalamet, a young drifter who shares her need for flesh. The two travel throughout the backroads of America as Maren tries to track down the mother she never knew, who she believes is just like her. 

The way in which Maren’s cannibalistic nature is explored throughout the film is interesting. Through cassette tapes left by her father, it is explained that she has shown signs of being an Eater since she was three years old. However, it is only when she ends up on her own that she begins to meet other Eaters. This throws her into the dark and lonely world of the film, a Reagan-era America filled with cannibals that go unnoticed in society; similar to the great deal of serial killers that existed in that time period. The film is a moody period piece that highlights a time when people really could just disappear; when mass surveillance and social media didn’t give everyone a traceable footprint. This is the world in which Maren and Lee exist. 

The central protagonists are fascinating in the way their lives are remarkably unchanged by their condition. Cannibalism could be substituted for any other situation that puts young adults on the fringes of America and much of their interactions would likely stay the same. At their core, the two leads are conflicted over the way all direction seems to be absent from their lives. They travel through a handful of states with unspoken feelings and past guilt haunting both of them while they struggle to share that pain with each other. 

The gloominess and isolation of the film lends itself to be contrasted by its technical aspects. The visual style is incredibly formal – framing and camera movement is kept precise and unemotive, often lending itself to a more objective viewpoint. This allows the actors to fill in the scenes with their emotions rather than to have the camera try and push emotions out of a scene. While licensed music used in the film occasionally feels out of place, the original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross fits in perfectly with the film. The compositions are incredibly well executed and flawlessly reflect the tone and themes of the film. 

It is difficult to make a film with the subject matter of cannibalistic teens dealing with trauma and deciphering their feelings while also killing and eating people. I would argue that most filmmakers would be incapable of directing a film like that without making it a gratuitous, tone-deaf schlock piece. The film may swing a bit too hard in the other direction at times; it sometimes felt as though the film lacked a compelling central hook that would be present in something that showed less restraint. However, Guadagnino is able to make the film feel genuine. There is an intimacy to the film that is rarely seen in horror films, and the actors are great. The presence of the camera is rarely noticed as the actor becomes a character and the character becomes a living breathing person who is more than what the script or the film explicitly tells us they are. 

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