It is not just Shakespeare who had the urge to make young love synonymous with death and doom. Romeo and Juliet. It’s such a natural narrative pairing: First loves rarely last, and youth definitely doesn’t.
For most people, that burning intensity of young love — the “Everything is new and wonderful, and we’re the first people to ever experience sex” feeling of infatuation and discovery — is likely to fade quickly. For adults, that sense of loss or nostalgia may feel like the feelings around death. But the metaphor has rarely been as startlingly vivid as it is in Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and allThis is a horror thriller that has lots of classic horror-movie elements but feels more like a romantic road movie.
It’s a strange movie, seemingly designed to confuse both fans of Guadagnino’s previous horror-inflected feature, 2018’s messy giallo remake SuspiriaFans and he of the 2017 gay, sun-baked romance Please call me by my name. While Bones and all It bridges these two movies in such a way that it seems calculated. This raises questions about how much crossover might exist between them. The film’s low-key romance drama, coming-of age story and low level of tension building and jump scares might disappoint horror hounds. Romantic-drama fans are certainly going to see more bloody eviscerations than they’re used to getting in their movies. But for genre-agnostic cinephiles, the sheer daring and uniqueness of the story — an adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’ 2015 YA novel of the same name — will be a major part of the draw.
All about Bones reunites Guadagnino and Please call me by my name star Timothée Chalamet for a second love story. Chalamet takes some time to get into the film. The film’s first focus is on Maren.Waves’ Taylor Russell), a high schooler with a series of secrets. Maren lives alone with her father (André Holland) in a dilapidated, disintegrating home. A furtive sense of shame hangs over all the little details of their home and their interactions, but it takes a while for the film to reveal why that’s true, and what they’re both navigating. And when the reveals do come, they’re horrifying and exhilarating at the same time, in part because the details are so unexpected.
Prepare for bloody, brief violence and a lot of pain when you get in. All about Bones is the kind of film that’s better experienced in the moment than in descriptions. Each new revelation about Maren’s past and present is unfolded carefully, in part because she doesn’t really understand her own nature, and has to learn about it alongside the audience. Screenwriter David Kajganich (a writer-producer-developer on the much-beloved horror series The Terror) never feels like he’s in a hurry to get to any particular part of the story. Maren can learn a lot through his conversations with Guadagnino, and first with Sully (a friend).Bridge of Spies’ Mark Rylance, once again disappearing into an incredible performance), then with newer acquaintance Lee (Chalamet), a world-wise boy about her age.
Viewers who don’t already know the fundamental premise of the film, and want to experience it in the theater, should stop reading right here. Here are the festival summary and early trailer. Bones and allAlthough Maren and Lee were reluctant to reveal their differences, public descriptions of the film are widely accepted as a shared secret. Bones and all’s wide-eyed central couple are both “Eaters,” effectively ghouls driven to devour human flesh. Their victims don’t have to be alive, but once they’ve started consuming human bodies, they have to continue, or die. Bones and allMore or less, the movie from “The Last Jedi” is being followed by others. Bonnie and Clyde to Terrence Malick’s Badlands in putting a pair of pretty people on the wrong side of the law and sending them on the run, but in this case, it’s questionable how human they are. And their crimes aren’t sexy and stylish, like Bonnie and Clyde’s bank robberies or the vampiric murders in Hunger — Guadagnino makes the consumption rituals bloody, grotesque, and animalistic, an unpleasant matter of survival.
All of which gives him more room to play when it comes to romanticizing Lee and Maren’s connection. There’s a century-old tradition of sexualizing monsters and predatory behavior, and Bones and all It’s a hard job, but Maren is willing to put in the effort. The story revolves around old patterns of coming-of age that lead protagonists to discover themselves and find their courage. Maren has a lot to navigate — a family mystery, her first love, her first understanding that there are other Eaters and rules that bind them. But above all, she has to figure out who she is in Lee’s shadow, and outside of it. Although he knows much more about the world and Eater lives, she is more knowledgeable about what she wants and how she can achieve it.
Similar Please call me by my name, Bones and all is a sensual movie, particularly visually — Guadagnino luxuriates in the kind of big-sky-country vistas that made Andrea Arnold’s similarly summer-break-themed American HoneyHe is so charming, and lights up his leads with warmth during the day and shuddering fervor at nights. But it’s more remarkable for the way he and Kajganich navigate the push and pull between the story’s romantic elements and horror themes. There’s a big metaphor at play here about how parents, families, and friends enable aberrant behavior until it feels normal, and how being protected from the world can make it hard to properly enter it. This plays out in two ways. One, through two teenage girls on a romantic roadtrip and the other as two hungry monsters seducing or killing others.
There’s an equally complex sense of attraction and repulsion at play in Maren and Lee’s relationship. They’re very different people who rarely seem suited for each other — but they also have that central unswerving similarity in common, and the fact that neither of them knows another Eater their age pulls them together, even when they’re infuriating each other with their conflicting goals and beliefs. The filmmakers keep the questions humming with a live-wire intensity throughout the movie — should these kids stick together or go their separate ways? Are they helping each other as much as they’re hurting each other? It’s a lot of complication for a young-love movie, and Guadagnino makes the limits of their relationship much more tense than any question about who might hunt them down or who they might hunt.
Bones, All It will be difficult to sell to many people due to its strange mix of genres and tones. There’s almost a camp element to the ways Guadagnino contrasts the appealing image of Lee and Maren silently holding each other in a private moment, and the repulsive image of them slicked down with dark, clotting arterial blood and drawing flies as they flee the corpse of their latest victim. The film’s craft is remarkable and captivating. The casting and performances are shockingly great, particularly when an all-but-unrecognizable Michael Stuhlbarg and director David Gordon Green drop in for a stunning single-sequence cameo. And the entire enterprise is deliciously weird, the kind of movie This leaves people walking away thinking “I’ve never seen anything like that before.” This movie is drawing on some old, old tropes and familiar ideas. However, it makes these feelings feel just as fresh, exciting and thrilling as young love.
Bones and allThis film is currently in cinemas.
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