Wednesday 7 June 2023

Prime Time: Bones And All (2022)

There might be some who would view Bones And All, a romantic drama that shows some people trying to live with a cannibalistic urge, and take the life lessons aspect of it to come up with the pithy alternative title of Hannibal Lecture, but I would be beyond that kind of pathetic attempt at an easy pun, of course.

Director Luca Guadagnino has made great use of a script by David Kajganich, adapting a novel by Camille DeAngelis, to deliver a film that feels impressively grim at times while also feeling very much like a typical Luca Guadagnino film. I find his work very often misses the mark slightly, but this is one of his better outings (although I must note here that I have sadly still to watch the much-praised Call Me By Your Name).

Taylor Russell plays Maren, a girl who has spent her lifetime moving around with, and being protected by, her father (André Holland, offscreen quickly enough, but also delivering some great voiceover work). Her father cannot stick around, however, and he leaves Maren with some advice and information. Traveling alone around the country, Maren meets others just like her, some that seem good (Lee, played by Timothée Chalamet) and some that seem like trouble (including Sully, played by Mark Rylance). Oh, I forgot to mention that Maren is overtaken sometimes by the urge to eat human flesh. Lee, Sully, and others also have the same condition, but not everyone views it as a problem.

The strangest thing about Bones And All, and I am going to assume that this was just me own brain causing problems, was the fact that it kept feeling like a Doctor Sleep offshoot to me. Some plot points are similar, although those same plot points can be found in many other movies, but it was the atmosphere and characters that somehow made me think I was watching something from a world written by Stephen King. I would love to hear from anyone who had a similar reaction, especially if this is a common observation. Otherwise, I will just chalk it up to another example of me being me.

Getting to what the movie is, instead of what my mind kept trying to make it, the cast all work well with the material. Russell is very good in the lead role, believably trying to cope with an unnatural appetite that others have spent time embracing. Chalamet isn’t bad, if less instantly convincing in his role (Chalamet often feels more like Chalamet than a credible new character), and Rylance plays his part so well that he casts a long shadow over most of the film, even without actually being onscreen for more than a handful of scenes. I have already complimented Holland, as the father who discovers his breaking point, and there are a number of effective turns from cast members only given a scene or two in which to make a strong impression. Michael Stuhlberg and David Gordon Green are two highlights, and Chloë Sevigny is another.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross create another great score, there’s clean and pleasing cinematography courtesy of Arseni Khachaturan, and every decision made allows for the more horrific moments to be presented in a way that shows restraint without complete shying away from the blood and violence (or the bones and all).

Although falling slightly between two stools, despite the best efforts of all involved, Bones And All is a strange and enjoyable drama that just happens to show people with some very peculiar dietary requirements. I liked it, but I am not sure who I would recommend it to.


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