'Bones and All' Finds the Sweet Side of Cannibalism

Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Starring Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, André Holland

Photo: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

BY Rachel HoPublished Nov 23, 2022

Director Luca Guadagnino gives audiences a lot to chew on in Bones and All. The film spans across multiple genres going from buddy road trip to young romance to flesh-eating horror. But at its heart, Bones and All is a coming-of-age story about a young woman searching for her place in the world.

A magnetic Taylor Russell plays Maren, a high school student whose insatiable desire for human flesh has forced her and her father Frank (André Holland) to flee every small town and city they make a home in. After Maren's most recent incident, Frank reaches the end of his tether and takes off in the middle of the night, leaving Maren with her birth certificate, some cash and a cassette. The tape is Frank's oral recounting of how he's seen Maren's condition develop and evolve, and how it connects her to her mother, whom Frank never mentioned to Maren growing up.

Maren sets out on a road trip where she meets Sully (Mark Rylance), who sought her out after smelling her from miles away — a skill "eaters" have to suss one another out. Through Sully, she begins to understand her appetite more, although she leaves his company the following day, never quite able to shake a sense of unease with him.

As she continues down the road to nowhere, Maren encounters Lee (Timothée Chalamet), a young boy who she could faintly smell as a fellow eater. Before long, a friendship and romance grows between the two. For Maren, Lee's presence helps her navigate how to exist as an outlier in a world with terms that conflict with her needs.

The going tagline for Bones and All is "The Timothée Chalamet eating movie," and while there are scenes that certainly give credence to this description, rather surprisingly, the cannibal aspect of the film feels more like a preface than the story. That's not to say there aren't scenes that will turn the stomachs of audiences, but Guadagnino uses such an unconcerned lens that I quickly reconciled Maren and Lee's cannibalism as just a character quirk.

The crux of the film is a love story between two young misfits figuring out who they are — one of the most universal themes, and therefore one of the most overdone in film. The cannibalism is almost set aside as the narrative element that drives the film forward. It is, of course, very extreme, and makes for provocative imagery that is deliciously captured by cinematographer Arseni Khachaturan.

Chalamet and Russell are delectable in their roles. Chalamet continues to impress as one of his generation's finest actors who, despite his fame and fandom, melts into every character he embodies. After her much-lauded supporting role in Waves, Russell proves herself to be a commanding leading actress. Russell warmly draws audiences into Maren's circle, garnering just enough sympathy to make us care about a young woman as she rips into the meat of another person.

Bones and All recalls another coming-of-age film, 2016's Raw by Julia Ducournau. In that film, cannibalism represented the wanton behaviour of a young sheltered woman who unleashes all of her thirst and lust when she leaves home for college; Bones and All, on the other hand, opts for something more comprehensive. Maren's hunger, in particular, is open season for interpretation, with Guadagnino asking his audience: what's your predilection? Whether it's queerness, introversion/extroversion or just simply feeling like the odd one out, Bones and All contends with embracing the parts of yourself that have always been true, no matter how far down they've been suppressed.
(Warner Bros.)

Latest Coverage