‘Bones and All’ is Eaten Alive by Its Mediocrity

Movie Review

Margaret Daniels, Graphics and Photography Editor

Going into the theater to see “Bones and All,” I have to admit, I was nervous. A teen romance, road trip, cannibal film has the potential to be absolutely awful. But as a die-hard Timothee Chalamet fan who bought tickets to “Dune” for opening night, I reserved seats as soon as I was able to. 

Going into the movie I knew little to nothing about the film’s content, plot, or characters, but while waiting for it to start, I did look at some reviews, One of which said the movie was “Surprisingly tame,” giving me false security. Viewers be warned, this film fully earns its R rating and does not shy away from showing detailed gore and other scenes that some may find disturbing. In fact, while I loved “Bones and all” for its artistic qualities and vibrant landscapes, this film was hard to watch at times. 

For example, within the first fifteen minutes of the film, Maren abruptly bites off a girl’s finger at a sleepover. Like the majority of the depictions in this film, this particular scene has little to no buildup to indicate what you are about to witness. I can definitely see this movie being one that people turn off within the first few acts because of the in-your-face nature of this film. 

 This being said, the makeup and props departments deserve major accolades for their work. If you showed me a still from this movie and told me it was a crime scene photo, I would probably say “wow, that’s an artsy crime scene photo.” But I’d also wholeheartedly believe you. The prosthetics in “Bones and All” were created by the award-winning special effects company “Hamer FX,” which has worked on an astounding number of films, shows, and music videos, including “American Horror Story” and “Swiss Army Man.”

This film’s cinematography was top-notch. There is something so wonderful in how Guadagnino captures a setting that is commonly disregarded as boring. This film shows the beauty in the ordinary: the small towns and golden prairies through this film are captured in a way that highlights the forgotten. This connection between the forgotten small towns of the midwest and the abandonment felt by these cannibal kids is strong throughout the movie. 

Set in the heartlands of America, the film was based out of Cincinnati, Ohio but filmed in various locations throughout the midwest including Indiana, Kentucky, and Nebraska. This setting is a sharp turn from those of Guadagnino’s other films such as“Call Me By Your Name” (2017) and “I Am Love” (2009) both of which are set in Italy. While “Call Me By Your Name” and “Bones And All ” are drastically different in theme and content, Guadagnino has still left his signature artistic style on both films, drawing them together. Guadagnino’s signature style is seen in his characteristic color grading with warm, lush greens and deep vibrant blues (and the Timothee Chalamet casting…).

Taylor Russell plays the teenage cannibal Maren, on her journey to find her mother after an event that leads to her father leaving her. Along her way she meets Sully another cannibal drifter with dark secrets, played by Mark Rylance, and later Lee, a young cannibal searching for a place in society, played by Timothee Chalamet who Maren convinces to join to travel the country. 

Lee’s character is full of life and emotion while not overwhelming the viewer. Leaving room for Maren’s character to flourish on her own. The relationship between Maren and Lee blossoms beautifully through this film, I loved the character development of Lee, seeing him grow and develop a sturdy relationship with his sister. But as Lee’s character grew, Marrens started to fall behind. As the plot went on Maren might have been the main character in this story but she was no longer the most interesting person in this film. This is no criticism of Taylor Russel’s acting ability though. While the character of Maren felt two-dimensional at times, Russel’s performance added some much-needed depth that was lacking in aspects of the writing. It’s exciting to see a fresh face on the screen like Russel’s, this being one of her first big-budget movies. I was pleasantly surprised by her performance. 

We first meet the character Sully at the very beginning of the film, when Maren is wandering around the midwest trying to figure out how to find her mother. He takes her in and shows her the ropes of being a cannibal, expressing multiple times that she is the only one he trusts to show how he finds his victims. As I watched this movie I felt constantly more and more disturbed by Sully and his fascination with Maren. Maren hastily parts ways with Sully after a disturbing find, I thought that this would be the last time we see Sully, unfortunately, I was wrong. 

Sully’s reappearance in the last 30 minutes of the film is what ruined this movie for me. Up until this point, I had been relatively enjoying the movie. Maybe it’s my longing for a happy ending but, if the last 30 minutes were cut, this movie would have been incredible. The moments with Sully at the end of the film felt like a rushed choice in order to set up a scene where Lee gets to say the name of the movie. As a viewer, Timothee Chalamet saying “eat me, bones and all” felt like a tacky attempt to get his fans to clip and share online (which they did). 

Overall I didn’t hate “Bones And All” It was a solidly above-average movie but, I think your opinion of this movie will all depend on what you value most in films. If you love movies for aesthetics and the art of cinematography, you’ll appreciate this. But if you are interested in more character-driven films, “Bones and all” is probably not for you.