With Bones and All, Luca Guadagnino combines the romantic coming-of-age story of Call Me By Your Name with the realist horror of his Suspiria adaptation, taking a melancholic approach to the story of a condition that compels its sufferers to consume human flesh.

David Kajganich adapts Camille DeAngelis’s novel but makes several key changes which flatten the motives of lead Maren (Taylor Russell). In the book she feeds when someone shows love towards her, but here the triggers are much less clear. Everything about this condition is left as obscure as possible. It’s just a fact of life, and Maren and all the other eaters she meets simply go about their cannibal business with very little remorse.

It’s a baffling narrative choice and one that neuters so much of the allegorical power of this kind of story. Instead Guadagnino takes a dynamic approach, flicking between peaceful romantic scenes on the road across the mid-West and brutal feeding frenzies. It’s an arresting technique, and he stages both with skill thanks to superb editing from Marco Costa, but the clash of styles mostly feels jarring.

Timotheé Chalamet is superb as fellow eater and love interest Lee, mixing toughness and fragility in a memorable performance. Mark Rylance also masters these contrasts as a friendly but unsettling eater who teaches Maren tricks of the trade, but the lead herself disappoints. She is the audience’s surrogate, but Taylor Russell never quite conveys the trauma of her condition.

The original novel touched on themes of veganism, or seeing Maren’s feeding as a defense against predatory men, but all of that is stripped away, leaving very little in its place. The troubled romance between Maren and Lee is a highlight and the strong finale finally brings a bit of direction to the story, but it’s not enough to save this muddled film.

RATING 3/5


INFORMATION

CAST: Timothée Chalamet, Taylor Russell, Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Gordon Green, André Holland

DIRECTOR: Luca Guadagnino

WRITERS: David Kajganich, Camille DeAngelis (novel)

SYNOPSIS: Maren, a teenage girl, is forced to confront her hunger for human flesh when her dad abandons her.