The dynamic mind of Luca Guadagnino, best known for his powerhouse Call Me By Your Name (2017) and the horror gem Suspiria (2018), which made fanatics squirm, steers the director further into horror with Bones and All, creating a film that has just as much heart as it does bite.
“Luca, we’re not in Crema anymore” is the best description for Bones and All, Luca Guadagnino’s new whiplash of a movie. But whilst in The Wizard of Oz (1939), Dorothy seems to be battling her way home, Guadagnino addresses the elephant in the room in his most personal film to date – cannibalism.
Teaming up with Timothee Chalamet, this film marks Guadagnino’s second film with Chalamet and his second dive into the horror movie genre. As the team work together, with the fantastic addition of Taylor Russell, his breadth as a director shines as he pushes his two actors into territories where they bend but never break.
Set in 1980s America, the story follows Maren (Russell), an 18-year-old who finally confronts her cannibalistic ideations. After biting off her friend’s finger, she discovers she is an “eater”, and not only will she not be able to control her urges as she ages, but they will only get stronger. Confused and scared, she is left to her own devices and sets to travel across America to find her estranged mother. Hoping she will find answers, she instead finds the reserved and charming fellow “eater” Lee (Chalamet).
As much as Guadagnino tries to stage a meet-cute between them, their first encounter is glaringly different to the love stories the director has made before. It is purely carnal. Whereas Call Me By Your Name communicates through sight and touch, Bones and All finds conversation in its use of smell, showcasing its intoxicating hold on the pair as animals. Between shared feasts of human flesh and late-night confessions over spilt blood, the two find a sanctuary in one another that transcends beyond the film’s focus on cannibalism.
This relationship between Maren and Lee is where the heart of the story lies. The gore and guts of the film, whilst somewhat tamer than expected, lie dormant to the true focus of this film – all-consuming love. Guadagnino, who is not shy to draw the connection between the consumption of the other as a communicative agent of desire, fundamentally uses this to underpin the integrity of the narrative. It transcends love stories, reflecting on how love allows us to understand one another and truly understand ourselves, bones and all.
Guadagnino may steer into horror, but one thing is for sure, just like the sensuality of his Desire Trilogy (2009-17) and the strength of companionship in Suspiria, the director is not done telling stories about love and loss. He is just finding different ways to do it.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s first film to feature cannibalism since Hannibal (2001).