Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 25, 2023)
Based on its title, one might expect 2022’s Bones and All to present a horror movie. One would assume correctly – to a degree, at least, as the film mixes the genre with “coming of age” romance as well.
Based on Camille DeAngelis’s 2016 novel, Bones takes place in the 1980s. Maren Yearly (Taylor Russell) behaves violently at a sleepover, an action that prompts her father Frank (André Holland) to move the two of them from Virginia to Maryland to escape the uproar.
This turns out not to be Maren’s first episode of this sort. Instead, Maren displayed a taste for cannibalism since a young age, though Frank managed to keep a lid on those events prior to the latest one.
When Maren turns 18, Frank abandons her, largely due to his inability to cope with her behaviors. Now on her own, Maren meets Lee (Timothée Chalamet), another marginalized youth, and the two embark on a romance and a long journey with some damaging repercussions as Maren attempts to better understand her need to consume human flesh.
Young Cannibals In Love sounds like a more apt title for the film than Bones and All. Obviously those involved didn’t want such an “exploitation” title for something with more serious pretensions like this.
Bones reunites Chalamet with Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino. It also brings back that film’s Michael Stuhlbarg and boasts “names” like Mark Rylance, Chloë Sevigny and Jessica Harper.
In other words, we get a broader level of talent than one might anticipate for a movie that pursues horror topics. Unsurprisingly, Guadagnino approaches the material in a manner that downplays genre thrills and accentuates characters and themes.
Given that Name acts as Guadagnino’s most well-known film, he might seem like an odd choice to helm Bones. However, he also dipped into horror with 2018’s remake of Suspiria.
Bones feels like a semi-awkward combination of Guadagnino’s last two movies. It mixes the violent darkness of Suspiria with the young love of Name.
Since I didn’t like either of those films, I went into Bones without great expectations. The movie winds up more satisfying than I anticipated due to those prior experiences, but that doesn’t mean I think it genuinely works.
In essence, Bones tells a fairly slow character story punctuated with occasional moments of violence. Guadagnino manages to spice up the narrative enough to keep us with it, but I admit the path the film takes tends to feel sluggish a lot of the time.
Part of the problem comes from the sketchy nature of the roles. Bones offers a twist on the “coming of age” narrative, but it doesn’t find a way to explore the parts in an especially memorable manner.
This feels particularly problematic given the focus on Maren. While we need to see her evolution, Bones doesn’t manage to make her especially compelling.
Aspects of the narrative do create some intrigue, mainly due to the subculture of cannibals Maren uncovers. Bones implies a supernatural vampiric vibe, as Maren and the rest need to feed to survive.
Unfortunately, Bones just doesn’t do enough with the theme to make the result particularly vivid. While the tale sparks to life at times, too much of it meanders.