A road movie with a believable romance, disgusting horror, gorgeous visuals and impeccable score, Bones and All, a movie that shouldn't work, becomes one of the best of the year.
WRITTEN BY BECCA JOHNSON / NOVEMBER 26, 2022
Directed by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name and Suspiria), Bones and All is a romance horror centring on Lee (Timothee Chalamet) and Maren (Taylor Russell), two individuals known as 'eaters' – those who devour other humans. When Maren embarks on a road trip to find her Mother after her Father abandons her due to her 'otherness', she meets Lee, a drifter who seems to have everything figured out on the surface, but has a terrifying past and struggles of his own. A road movie with a believable romance, disgusting horror, gorgeous visuals and impeccable score, Bones and All, a movie that shouldn't work, becomes one of the best of the year.
What makes this movie not only fantastic, but also surprising, is how well it balances it's tones. Combining horror and romance is a tricky thing to do, yet Guadagnino and the team pull it off masterfully. The romance is developed enough to be believable and not feel instant, and the placement of horrific scenes into the normal Midwest America setting feel as natural as they can. When things start to get gross and make you want to look away, a gorgeous exchange between our leads pulls you back in. It shocks with it's gore and cannibal subplot, yet it drags you in with it's acceptance and love. Guadagnino is best known for Call Me by Your Name, a love story full of yearning and Suspiria (2018), a disturbing body horror; with Bones and All, he combines the best elements of both and proves once again that he can do both genres – even at the same time.
In the roles of Maren and Lee are Taylor Russell (Waves) and Timothee Chalamet (Dune) – they both without a doubt give career best performances. Russell steals the show, understanding every ounce of her characters loneliness, loss and lack of acceptance. Maren struggles to get close to people as she either doesn't want to hurt them, or doesn't want them to leave her, and Russell embodies this through every look and gesture. Timothee Chalamet is fantastic as the free-spirited Lee, who appears to be confident and comfortable with his affliction, but as the layers are peeled back, we discover he may be more lost than he lets on. Also afraid to let people in, it's wonderful and powerful to see his relationship with Maren blossom, and the pair are entirely believable. They find understanding in each other that they can't find anywhere else, their bond can be seen from a mile away.
Despite spending the majority of the runtime with our two leads, the side performances pack a huge punch. Mark Rylance (Dunkirk) plays Sully, a creepy 'eater' that Maren meets on her journey. He may not seem too threatening at first as he offers to help Maren, but with his unnerving look and uncomfortable habits, it's impossible to not be spooked by him. Through his character, we get an exploration into how awkward and uncomfortable it can be, as a young woman, to want to see the good in men but be equally put off by their inappropriate desire for closeness. Mark Rylance has never done a role quite like this, and he's an excellent addition to the horror genre. Michael Stuhlbarg, another member of the Call Me by Your Name alumni, also gives an unrecognisably sinister and memorable performance despite his lack of runtime. He's just plain terrifying, once again leading Maren and Lee to believe that they really only have each other – even those they can relate to may not to be trusted. The casting cannot be faulted, everyone give it their all.
Many assumed that Bones and All, due to it's romantic plot, wouldn't dare get too scary. Luckily for horror fans – it does. The gory scenes involving our star-crossed cannibals are deeply disturbing, despite only occurring a handful of times. We see everything, and we hear everything, the sound design often managing to get under your skin with it's flesh-tearing more so than the visuals. It's body horror is very well designed, looking realistic at all times, but it's not always the blood and guts that make this flick so chilling; it's the way our leads fully immerse themselves into their roles. The pair spend much of the run-time doe-eyed, sad and longing, but when it comes down to being eaters, they're animalistic in nature and becoming something completely different; hungry, out of control, involuntary. The horror undoubtedly works.
Tying everything together neatly are the visuals and score. Bones and All takes our characters through Midwest America, and the landscapes are showcased beautifully. A lot of time is spent with the camera showing us the beautiful views surrounding our characters, and it pays off, creating an immersive experience. Elevating that immersive feel is the use of the handheld camera, particularly during scenes where our characters are driving along the road. Everything down to the hair, make-up and costuming is beautiful and inviting, creating a whole world of it's own that feels so right, despite being so wrong. The score, from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Gone Girl, Soul), does the same as the movies plot – it's beautiful and ethereal, yet packs a chilling punch when it needs to. Matching the tone of the movie effortlessly in every scene, at least two tracks are bound to make it to your on repeat.
Despite the rave review, Bones and All won't be for everyone. It's gross and disturbing, whilst also being a love story for the ages. If you can find the harmony in that, you'll have a blast. It's rare, even unheard of, to find a movie that is one of the most effective horrors of the year, and most effective romances of the year, but Bones and All is undeniably both. Guadagnino, along with a talented bunch of writers, actors, cinematographers, composers and great source material to base it on, has created one of the most memorable and stand-out films of the year. With tremendous performances, a masterclass in balancing tone, stunning cinematography and effective horror, Bones and All is unmissable.