4 out of 5 stars
Bones and All combines many genres and has been billed as a ‘coming-of-age romance horror road’ film. The latter of these is a helpful category when understanding the themes presented. A road movie is a film wherein the main characters leave home on a road trip that typically alters the perspectives of their everyday lives. Road movies often depict travel through rural communities, explore alienation themes, and examine the tensions and issues of the cultural identity of a nation or historical period. Usually, this is all set within a mood of actual or potential menace, lawlessness, and violence, and is populated by restless, frustrated, and often desperate characters. These settings usually include not just the close confines of the car as it moves along on highways and roads, but also booths in diners and rooms in roadside motels. All of which help to create intimacy and tension between the characters. Road movies also tend to focus on rebellion, challenging views on sexuality, and self-discovery. Within this genre, the core theme of road movies is pushing back against conservative social and moral norms.
Bones and All firmly sits within this genre, focusing on two young desperate lovers, Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timothée Chalamet). This couple feels alienated and takes rebelling against conservative social norms to a new level as they indulge in their cannibalistic urges. As they travel from state to state through rural communities, they are pursued by the law, other ‘eaters’, and try to protect and provide for each other. Adapted from the same novel, Guadagnino follows up his romance film ‘Call Me By Your Name’ (2017) and horror film ‘Suspiria’ (2019) by combining the two.
The film is unnervingly empathetic and incredibly gory, while being strangely romantic. The screenplay is terrifying yet tender, heart-warming yet gut-wrenching, and beautiful yet brutal as it tells its cannibal love story. The story is only horrific in small bursts between the heartfelt road trip focused on connection and companionship that features mesmerising and bone-chilling performances that leave you transfixed. This means that when the horror scares come, you are unprepared, terrified, and unsettled.
Guadagnino’s tale of forbidden love is so beautifully realised, the viewer almost forgets half the time that this is a cannibal horror film. It is a gory and darkly disturbing film. Yet, Maren and Lee’s connection feels so pure at times. Their love is so real and their desire for each other to be happy so profound. Mark Rylance is also so bone-chillingly upsetting as Sully, who is an ominous presence that is so effectively used to craft intrigue and dread. It is certainly not a film for the faint of heart, with lots of gore, disturbing moments, and mature themes. Yet, for those who can stomach it, there is a sensitive love story at its core that is genuine, and earnest thanks to phenomenal work from its two leads.
Reel Dialogue: What disturbs us?
Bones and All is most certainly a graphic horror film, with grotesque and gory scenes that unsettle and disturb. And yet, the film’s other moments of romance and coming-of-age distract from the darkly disturbing subject matter. Which raises the question, how do we discern what is wrong, in a world where good and bad so closely and commonly exist to the degree that it is hard to distinguish between them?
For those who embrace the Christain faith, there is a need to have discerning minds and listen to the voice of God. He informs us of what is good and right, and does not cauterise our consciences, no matter how appealing the darkness may seem. Understand that this is not merely a mystical journey, but can begin with studying the Bible as an instruction manual for life. Partnered with prayer and seeking our counsel from fellow followers of Christ.
Many may think this process is optional when considering watching a film. Still, for those who acknowledge Jesus as their saviour, all things must be brought before God. Not to take the joy out of entertainment. More importantly, to see how to make the experience richer and guard against taking things into your heart and mind that may damage your relationship with God.
Titus 1:15 “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.”