Thomas Caldwell reviews Bones and All – Update Howl

Every fortnight, Thomas Caldwell joins Jacinta Parsons to review the film, here are his thoughts on the new release about two lovers with cannibalistic desires.

Bones and All review

The runaway lover subgenre in Hollywood cinema often seems to be most popular in times when audiences were believed to appreciate morally questionable characters and the sexual charge of social transgressions. From the noir moral darkness of classic Hollywood films such as Gun Crazy, through the counterculture films of the 1960s and 1970s New Hollywood (Bonnie and Clyde, The Getaway, Badlands) to the independent spirit of American cinema in the 1990s (My Own Private Idaho, Thelma & Louise, True Romance) is a genre of vicarious excitement. In an age where corporate franchises dominate the multiplexes with content designed to keep as many people as possible happy as possible, that’s why a film like Bones and All is an exciting anomaly, with its peculiar story of lovers on the run that weaves together romance and horror in a surprising but in a successful way.

The film opens with Maren Yearly (Taylor Russell) trying to make friends at her new school, despite her father Frank (André Holland) locking her in her room for the night. It soon becomes clear that Maren has cannibalistic urges that she struggles to control, and as a result, Frank has had to constantly move her from town to town every time there is an incident. When Frank becomes too much, Maren is left to fend for herself, which leads her to discover that there are other people like her living on the fringes of society. One of them is a young drifter named Lee (Timothée Chalamet), with whom Maren connects and a romance gradually begins to blossom.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, Bones and All once again shows the Italian director’s deep love and understanding for a visually opulent film style. While earlier films featured nods to Italian masters like Luchino Visconti or Bernardo Bertolucci, but without obvious references (even Guadagnino’s 2018 version of Suspiria is an evocation of Dario Argento’s 1977 original rather than a direct reference), Bones and All has the look and feel of . Terrence Malick’s 1973 classic Badlands via Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987), Andrea Arnold and George Romero’s American Honey (2016). Part of the joy of so many of Guadagnino’s films is how well he captures the sensibilities of past masters without blatant homages and references, and is therefore able to generate images that contain an element of familiarity and yet feel like something completely new and unseen.

Bones and All, an adaptation of the 2016 novel by Camille DeAngelis, also uses the tradition of sympathetic monsters as a way to challenge the audience’s response to people who live outside of conventional society. What gives Bones and All its edge, however, is its sliding scale of morality, where viewers have to come to terms with the fact that Maren and Lee are killers who eat their victims while also investing heavily in their growth as individuals and as a romantic couple. The sensuality of their relationship is often contrasted with the bloodiness and violence of their coercion. They try to live by certain rules and are far less monstrous than some of the other characters they meet, but the justifications for certain actions they express mirror the justifications we make for indulging in the pleasure of watching them. To the film’s credit, these are provocations rather than moral lessons, and the film is not interested in providing easy answers or explanations. Instead, it’s a sensual, compelling and sometimes repulsive journey to the very fringes of society.

However, it would be a mistake to dismiss Bones and All as frivolous with its mix of romance and horror and absence of preaching. The film evokes ideas about the extent to which people are a product of their genes, environment and their own free will. Guadagnino doesn’t definitively answer these questions, but raises them throughout the film to further ask the audience how we consider the actions of the two lovers depending on how much we think they can or can’t control what they do. Through encounters with characters who have made their cannibalistic compulsions their entire identity, and characters who play this role without actually having any real compulsion, Bones and All further explores how the acceptance or rejection of aspects of our personality – consciously or unconsciously – drives the journey of so many of us. to move through the world and shape it according to our psychological needs. The result is a film as seductive as it is strange, where all its contradictions work to remind us how exciting cinema can be.

Released by Universal Pictures Australia in cinemas from 24 November 2022.

Thomas Caldwell tweets at @cinemaautopsy

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