Bones and All

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


From Luca Guadagnino (“Suspiria”), the auteur of odd, “Bones and All” is an adaption from a novel by Camille DeAngelis and it is as compelling as it is strange. From the first moment this immersive story enthralls as it seduces. As weird as this film is, its strangest quality is that it transforms something ghoulish and unthinkable into the sympathetic.

Maren (Taylor Russell) is a high school student invited to a sleepover. After a session painting nails, Maren matter of factly chomps off her friend’s finger. Blood and chaos ensues. Maren is horrified and repulsed by her own behavior, and her dad tells her that they must leave town.

The next day Maren discovers that her father has left her, leaving a recorded cassette in place of a letter along with her birth certificate. It seems as though Maren is in an unusual minority (like werewolves, vampires or zombies) that periodically requires the consumption of human flesh for nourishment.

Forced to be a nomad and unable to settle, she travels the country by bus.

Stopping in the Midwest, Maren sees a kindly older man named Sully (Mark Rylance) who tells her that he can sense that Maren “eats.” He prepares a chicken for her and informs her that she will have to have human flesh at an ever increasing rate.

Much to Sully’s disappointment, Maren decides to leave Sully’s temporary lair and sets off once more. She sees a skinny figure, Lee (Timothée Chalamet) soaked in human gore. Lee is prone to sudden fits of energy in addition to soporific trances. The two are quickly smitten with each other.

They journey on a road trip given their dietary requirements.

Aside from their hunger, the trip allows them to experience middle America. The couple travels from Virginia to Nebraska and the locations are full of eccentricity and character. One might feel this is “Nomadland” (2020) instead of a night of ghouls.

And for the record, both Maren and Lee are no garden variety “creature feature” spooks. For the most part at least, they wish to be normal and human. Both of them want to love and belong. This empathy and the desire they wish for makes the outlandish and graphic blood scenes all the more shocking.

Not since Dario Argento or “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein” (1973) has there been so much blood onscreen.

Mark Rylance gives a wondrous outing in what is his most outrageous and pitch perfect role yet. He is both kindly and sinister, straight out of something by Roald Dahl.

The always unusual Chloe Sevigny appears in a jarring cameo that has to be seen to be believed, while Timothée Chalamet has never been better.

This film is both wild, heartfelt and existential. While the blood pours from the fountains, in both camp and circumstance, character and empathy is well in force here too, and the great hat trick Guadagnino pulls off is that he balances abhorrent disgust with what is intimate and romantic between impassioned lovers.

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