Bones And All feels like someone took inspiration from the Twilight franchise. The central idea is to replace vampires with ghouls and replace light teenage romantic fantasy with heavy teenage romantic cannibalism. Unsurprisingly, the movie underperformed, except with the Arnie Hammer demographic.
On The Bone Again
Bones and All is a coming-of-age road movie. A teenage girl is abandoned by her father due to her tendency to eat people. She meets up with a teenage boy who also eats people. They set out to find their place in the world, meet people along the way, and eat them.
The teenage girl is played by Taylor Russell (Escape Room). It looks like she cut her own bangs for this film, and a girl who cuts her own bangs is a force to be reckoned with. Like a lot of modern female leads, Russell’s go-to move is moodiness. In this case, it works. Russell’s character has a shortage of personal bonds due to her monstrous nature, yet she is still human emotionally.
Timothee Chalamat (Dune) is the teenage boy. In Bones and All, Chalamat seems to model more than act. He poses emotions rather than performs emotions. He can’t compete with Robert Pattinson. Literally. Chalamat must weigh 140 pounds, and that’s after bingeing on cheeseburgers and lithium.
The standout performer of Bones and All is Mark Rylance (Dunkirk) as an older, weirdo ghoul. He takes Russell under his wing briefly at the beginning of the film and then pops in and out of the movie. Rylance is fantastic in the role, simultaneously odd, sad, and dangerous. He almost qualifies as a live-action Herbert from Family Guy.
Bones and All is based on a novel by Camille DeAngelis. She has a master’s degree in writing and is a feminist, so you know you’re going to get elevated material. David Kajganich adapted the screenplay. Kajganich deals more with low-brow stories, such as Invasion and Blood Creek (reviewed here). This dynamic could create an interesting hybrid, but Kajaganich takes the cue from DeAngelis and stays out of schlock.
Luca Guadagnino is an Italian filmmaker who directed the solid Suspira remake and worked in documentary films. Bones and All has a documentary vibe. It is shot in a naturalistic way. Set ups are haphazard rather than perfectly-framed. His guiding hand makes Bones and All feel artistic. Guadagnino has that Italian ability to make trash seem poignant. Yet, the style is muted for a Western sensibility. Bones and All is delivered low-key. No giallo-type garishness.
Bones and All also exhibits good attention to detail. Part of the movie takes place in Minnesota, and it looks authentic, as do the stops in South Dakota. It was surprising to hear the town of “Mankato” mentioned in a genuine movie. When Russell stops at a diner, one can see the businesses advertised on her placemats, and they even have the correct area code.
Make No Bones and All About It
Where Bones and All goes off the rails is with its structure. Typically, road movies have a destination. Obstacles happen, and the movie ends when the characters reach their goal. Bones and All ends up mostly meandering. Characters go to Point A, then Point B, then decide to return to Point A, head out to Point C, turn around, and end up at Point D.
Bones and All did have a prototypical final destination in play, but the characters reach it with about forty minutes of movie left. As a result, the movie no longer knows what to do with itself after that point. It kind of hangs around like a guest who won’t leave until they are shuttled out the door because everyone needs to go to sleep.
The next strike against Bones and All is that multiple things are introduced that seem like they should be followed up on. None of them are followed up on.
The final challenge Bones and All fails to overcome is how to deal with the fact that cannibal films are gross, like really gross. How does one create sympathetic characters that are so repugnant? Admittedly, the characters are intriguing. The viewer even grows to care about them. When the cannibal scenes happen, Guadagnino keeps them brief. Nevertheless, they are disgusting moments of Romero-type munching that remind the viewer they are cheering for monsters.
This leaves the viewer torn and makes one wonder who this movie is for exactly. How are teenage girls supposed to swoon over a guy who lures homosexuals into cornfields, slits their throat, and eats them? Meanwhile, what are adults supposed to get out of Bones and All? Most of them did not have a coming-of-age experience that involved cannibalism. Finally, Bones and All also doesn’t supply entertainment for horror fans, beyond momentary glimpses of gore.
What’s it all about anyway?
Bones and All wants to be a high-brow film. The novel touched upon feminism, loneliness, and self-loathing. The movie also takes place in the 1980s and references Republicans Rudy Giuliani and Ronald Reagan. It seems to try to present a world where outsiders aren’t welcome in a conservative society. They have to live on the fringes because…bigots, I guess?
So, being wary of people who might eat you is bigotry? That makes no sense. If that is what Bones and All is trying to say, it actually ends up being more of a nightmare for liberals than it is an indictment of conservative values. Basically, Bones and All is saying the rednecks are out there, and they are going to eat you. What is more chilling for a liberal than that? Rednecks are the Trump base, after all.
Bones and All also could have been more clear about the nature of the characters. They call themselves “eaters,” and they have heightened senses of smell. That is about the extent of what the viewers are told about them. The word “ghoul” is never mentioned, but that seems to be their identity.
Finally, Bones and All wants to comment on love. Unfortunately, it seems to say true love is metaphorically eating someone up, bones and all, so they are a part of you forever. I’m not sure where they got that out of the traditional definition of love given in 1 Corinthians 13. One could be so bold as to say Bones and All doesn’t know what love is at all. Love is not eating. Love is feeding.
Down to the Bones and All
Bones and All is one of those movies that strives to be something more. It has a Let The Right One In and a No Country For Old Men kind of vibe. It looks fine. The central concept is intriguing. The cast is mostly solid, especially Rylance. Yet, it is ultimately let down by the story. It tried so hard to have depth that it forgot to have structure. A better dispensing of answers and building toward a goal would have helped.
For the final half-hour of Bones and All, the main characters decide to “be people for a while.” That’s a great phrase, Bones and All would have been better served to “be schlocky for a while.”
Check back every day for movie news and reviews at the Last Movie Outpost