“Bones and All” mixes many genres, along with the promise of a “Call Me By Your Name” mini-reunion from director Luca Guadagnino and Timothée Chalamet, the star so far least likely to appear in a story with the word “cannibal” in him. A road movie about young cannibals finding love (the title “Fine Young Cannibals” comes to mind), it’s a strange and intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying stew.
Despite Chalamet’s appeal, the film belongs to and focuses on his co-star Taylor Russell (who had a prominent supporting role in “Waves”) as teenager Maren, who discovers her hunger for human flesh, a condition that eventually causes his father. (André Holland) to give up trying to protect her.
Forced to strike out on her own, Maren discovers a hidden community of people with the same unorthodox diet, learning how they adapt to those urges. This begins with Sully (Mark Rylance, also freely chewing the scenery), a strange character who tries to help guide her, but gives off a decidedly creepy vibe.
Set in the 1980s, it’s not long before Maren meets Lee (Chalamet), who’s closer to her age and a bit of a dreamer, even if he occasionally sneaks off to kill and eat someone who at least he seems to deserve it. At this point, “Bones and All” becomes a tale of two star-crossed lovers, as Maren seeks to better understand her story by searching for the mother who abandoned her, while Lee separately tries to make peace with his own family.
There’s an inevitably episodic quality to the pair’s journeys, and strictly in terms of screen time, Chalamet has a large but relatively modest role. Guadagnino doesn’t venture much into the details of this cannibalistic subculture – a metaphor for many things, with vampirism as its most obvious cinematic precursor – but anyone venturing into the romance should at least be warned that coming with quite a bit. amount of gore on the side.
The most frustrating aspect of “Bones and All” comes from all the lore gaps in the film (adapted from a book by Camille DeAngelis by screenwriter David Kajganich, who worked with the director on “A Bigger Splash” and “Sigh”). tell about these strangers hiding in plain sight among us, or what it would be like to live with their affliction, if you can call it that.
Instead, the focus is on the here and now, on Maren’s personal situation, which does not widen the lens to contemplate the world beyond. It’s that rare film that despite its flaws leaves you wanting more, where the limited edition version might be more rewarding.
However, Russell delivers a breakthrough performance, anchoring the film in Maren’s uncertainty and vulnerability, which provides the necessary ballast given the flowery nature of the characters around her.
Of course, she’s not the first teenager to exhaust her parents in a way that threatens to suck the life out of them. “Bones and All” just takes that dynamic more literally than most, while narratively speaking, it feels more like an appetizer than a meal.
“Bones and All” opens in theaters in the United States on November 18. It has an R rating.