REVIEW: ‘Bones and All’ is a compelling movie about monsters among us

Hannibal Lecter, eat your heart, or I guess someone else’s heart out.

“Bones and All” is a love story, that just happens to include cannibalism. Taylor Russell stars as Maren in the film, a young woman who is an “eater,” a human being who has an insatiable hunger for human flesh. The film picks up with her being left by her father (Andre Holland) who tells her she must live on her own, after he spent years trying to hide what she is.

Maren decides to go on the road and find out about her mother now that her father has left, and along the way meets others like herself, including someone her own age. That person is Lee (Timothee Chalamet), a young man who decides to go along with Maren on her journey, and the two build a connection.

While not entirely supernatural, “Bones and All” does play out as a modern monster movie. The main characters are more reminiscent of vampires than serial killer cannibals. This isn’t like a higher functioning “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” family.

The eaters in this movie need to consume in order to exist, it’s just that unlike vampires, they need more than blood. They also have a keen sense of smell, being able to differentiate regular people from other eaters by scent.

It results in the protagonists existing as something separate from humans, but living among them, the same way other supernatural beings such as vampires or werewolves do. It’s a great way to make a dark fantasy horror in a modern setting, comparable to what 2008’s “Let the Right One In,” did, but with a unique take.

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Courtesy United Artists Releasing.

However, while the film certainly leans into the horror genre and lets its monsters engage in some gruesome thrills, it’s not truly the focus of the picture. The movie is more about these characters coming to terms with the fact that they’re monsters and what it means for their existence.

Being an eater forces Maren to go out on her own and experience isolation from others. It draws her to Lee, another person going through similar lived experiences and the two are able to bond over what they’ve gone through. These aspects, the journey of these characters and what weighs on their minds, is the real strength of the movie.

It’s a coming of age story about young people questioning and coming to terms with their identity. It’s a picture about people dealing with past traumas. Most of all it’s a film where a relationship sparks and develops because two people find  another person who understands them.

The most effective scenes in the picture are those featuring the protagonists’ relationship being built, and moments where they share their backgrounds. It’s compelling to watch them share past experiences, and also talk about the future, as they consider how they can live in the world knowing that fitting in will likely be out of reach.

The two lead performers contribute a lot to the film’s success. Russell is superb, a viewer feels empathy for her character as she experiences self-loathing and questions her place in the world. Russell is great in portraying this, as well as her character’s deep affection that builds for Lee.

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Chalamet, meanwhile, nicely manages to show how his character has come to terms with who he is, but is still pained by his past. He proves himself again as one of the best young actors in the industries, as he’s able to capture the complexities of his life as an eater while still making his character relatable.

Unfortunately, not all the performances featured in “Bones and All” work. Mark Rylance plays another eater the protagonists come across and he is a strange, odd man.  Rylance goes overboard with trying to make the character seem awkward, just as he did in “Ready Player One” and “Don’t Look Up,” too.

These characters often feel one dimensional, as their eccentricities and anti-social actions are all the personality they really get. Additionally, in this case, it’s unnecessary. Rylance’s character is already an eater, so making him behave even more awkward and strange feels excessive.

“Bones and All” could have had better pacing and plot progression at times, too. The film feels a bit narratively loose late in the second act, while the third is rather rushed. The film’s ending could have been fleshed out more, too.

Yet even with a few issues, “Bones and All” is a strong film. Director Luca Guadagnino put together a dark, intriguing romantic drama that crosses genres with horror, and it works. 4.25 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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