A wasted opportunity that relies on characters being cannibals as a hook instead of actually telling an interesting story involving cannibals.
With an intriguing trailer that promised some kind of messed up love story about two cannibals on the run from their own kind, Bones and All seemed like the perfect way to get a break from big-budget, spectacle-over-substance, Hollywood blockbusters. But as I shifted and fidgeted with agitation in the dark cinema, waiting for the film to deliver what was promised in the trailer, I soon realized this was just a low-budget, spectacle-over-substance road tripping love story that relied on the spectacle of cannibalism to make up for its lack of an engaging plot.
Maren (Taylor Russell) is a cannibal, AKA an “eater”. She’s forced to leave home and fend for herself after she eats a girl’s finger at a sleepover party and her father (André Holland) helps her avoid the authorities. With some cash, her birth certificate and a cassette tape recording of her father explaining his reasons for abandoning her, she ventures out into the world where she starts to encounter other eaters able to find each other via their impressive sense of smell.
One of the eaters she befriends is Lee (Timothée Chalamet) and the two begin traveling together. Lee agrees to help Maren find her mother and the two embark on a long interstate road trip where they fall in love and begin a romantic relationship. However, their adventure isn’t all flowers and sunshine. As they learn more about each other and Maren learns to give in to their cannibalistic nature, they expose themselves to the dangers that come with being an eater as well as the emotional pain that comes with learning about each other’s past.
While this sounds like a story that would garner many interesting and provocative encounters, the truth is not much really happens. Well, not enough to warrant a 130-minute runtime. The audience is teased numerous times with moments of tension just waiting to explode or be properly explored or become something more sinister, but such promises never materialize.
An example is the encounter Maren and Lee have with Jake (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Brad (David Gordon Green) at the swimming hole. Jake and Brad are also both cannibals (one a true eater and the other more of a “groupie”) who come across as being extremely “off” and an obvious danger to the young couple. Yet nothing of value eventuates other than a very quick chase scene as Maren and Lee escape in their car. Jake and Brad clearly had some kind of terrible motive towards the lovebirds yet never appear again or try to give chase in their own vehicle. Instead, we are returned to the romance road trip where nothing happens except for Maren and Lee traveling further interstate.
I also found many parts to be unbelievable. I know this is a work of fiction and not meant to be “real”, however given the grounded nature of the style of storytelling I expect scenes to be at least plausible or logical given the reality being presented. The killers make no real effort to hide the fact that they’ve killed and eaten someone after the fact. I’d imagine subtlety and secrecy would be important to a cannibal for the sake of self preservation, yet there are times where we see characters almost flaunting the fact they’ve just committed a bloody crime. Walking around in public with blood on your face and down your chest should be a sure path to getting arrested. Even Jeffrey Dahmer knew he had to keep things out of sight.
We’re also meant to believe that, despite Maren’s history of secretly killing and eating people when she was younger, like when she killed and ate her babysitter when she was just three, she just decided to eat the finger of a girl while others were around and thus starting the journey of her being on the run. Plus, nobody seems to come looking for the killers of the people who die.
Lastly, and this really bugged me, is the way in which ALL the cannibals eat their food. Every cannibalistic scene results in a person with food/blood all over their face and all over their bodies or clothes. What are they, toddlers? They are still civilized adult people who know how to use a knife and fork and how to aim the food into their mouths as opposed to all over their foreheads. It was just laughably unbelievable to me. And everyone knows blood is hard to wash out of clothes.
These scenes felt like it was more about being visually shocking to the audience than actually portraying modern people eating their food – even if it is another human being. And don’t get me started on the absurd ending that’s supposed to convey “emotional eating” but just garnered laughter.
While all the actors give strong performances with Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet easily carrying the film with their great onscreen chemistry, the absurdity of the story and decisions of their characters at times made the intended seriousness of the tone disappear and become laughable as I couldn’t suspend disbelief with what I was watching.
Director Luca Guadagnino (Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams, Suspiria) manages to create some truly tense or “off” moments through his direction and pacing of key scenes but unfortunately the story holds back on the potential those scenes could have had to have something, anything of substance to happen. Additionally, Guadagnino’s choice of pacing adds unnecessary runtime to scenes that aren’t important to the overall plot. They look and feel like fillers or that they’re trying to pad out the runtime because they know they don’t have much substance to play with.
Bones and All had the potential of being an edgy film that combines the beauty of young love blossoming on a road trip coupled with the horror of cannibalism, which could have been quite a mix. Sadly, despite a great cast who all deliver strong performances, the film is a wasted opportunity relying on characters being cannibals as a hook instead of actually telling an interesting story involving cannibals. At least the violence is done well. The finger eating scene did make me wince in my seat.
- MPAA Rating: R
- Release Date: November 23, 2022
- Distributor: United Artists Releasing
Originally published on December 06, 2022 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/bones-and-all-2022/