FilmReview

Bones and All: Cannibalism has never looked prettier

Luca Guadagnino’s dreamy anthropophagic-themed adventure deftly segues between teenage romance, hinterland tableaux and genuinely unsettling encounters.

Bones and All
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Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cert: 18
Genre: Horror, Romance, Road trip
Starring: Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon Green, Jessica Harper
Running Time: 2 hrs 11 mins

Adapted from Camille DeAngelis’s Young Adult novel of the same name, David Kajganich’s script can’t avoid being Twilight, but with cannibals. Still, Luca Guadagnino’s dreamy anthropophagic-themed adventure has plenty to offer any viewer not deterred by the prospect of intestine chewing.

Maren, interpreted by the charismatic Taylor Russell, seems like a regular outsider teen, with unfashionable clothes and an overprotective dad (André Holland), until a sleepover ends in bloody dismemberment. The family hastily move on, but her Dad has had enough. He takes off, leaving behind a cassette – Bones and All is quietly set in the 1980s, thanks to Elliot Hostetter’s understated production design – and details of Maren’s true nature.

Spoiler alert: she ate her first corpse aged three. Alone and on the road, Maren encounters Scully (Mark Rylance, channelling Night of the Hunter), a creepily overbearing cannibal adviser: “Never, never eat an eater,” he cautions.

Rightly spooked, Maren resumes her journey and encounters Lee (Timothée Chalamet), a disenfranchised, pragmatic young cannibal with a battered pickup truck. It’s puppy love at first sight. With more corpse-piling than usual.

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The pair set out on a gorgeous road trip across middle America in search of Maren’s long-lost mother.

Belarusian cinematographer Arseni Khatchaturan’s hypnotic shots of rolling hills and roads are set to an atmospheric score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the combination making one think that it’s the journey, not the destination that counts. The mother-and-child reunion, however, turns out to be unmissably frightful.

Call Me by Your Name director Guadagnino has flirted with horror tropes before, not least in his odd remake of Dario Argento’s chiller, Suspiria. Bones and All deftly segues between teenage romance, hinterland tableaux and genuinely unsettling encounters.

A Missouri run-in with redneck eaters (including Michael Stuhlbarg and David Gordon Green) is as unsettling as it is heart-racing. The denouement, too, is worth waiting for. Cannibalism has never looked prettier.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic