Bones and All. The latest from Luca Guadagnino hits all the markings of a coming-of-age love story. A lead character on a journey of self-discovery …check. Love found along the way …check. A road trip where the answers lay ahead…check. A story circling cannibalism that is a statement or underlying message on addiction – check – with a side dish of what the f**k.
That’s something rarely used in today’s cinema but still engaging nonetheless. What is done right along the journey of Maren and Lee—our two leads— is a formula that is a new type of coming age story that is revealing of being young and heartbreak. However, this examination by the director and writer David Kajganich is under the lens of truth, love, and loss that anyone with a beating could see and appreciate.
Bones and All, directed by Guadagnino, stars Timothée Chalamet (Lee) and Taylor Russell (Maren). The story, written by Kajganich, follows the two young individuals trying to find their place in the world after living a life with a taste for human flesh. There are several ways to take this movie. A director can easily go the route of straight horror, comedy, or overly done action. However, Guadagnino uses his style of filmmaking as a character study on the lasting effects of addiction, all the while having the leads use their need for companionship to showcase their story.
Guadagnino directing in Bones and All comes more as intimate and personal in an unlikely landscape. Several shots should be seen as cold and heartless, but Guadagnino uses his talent to illustrate some of the most beautiful parts of the midwest. For example, Marne and Lee sit on a hilltop as the day draws closer and the night begins. There’s an excellent mixture of the blue and orange sky that translates to the feeling of Lee and Maren. Their opportunities in life are vast and mysterious, but their combined mindset formulates a beautiful mixture of love and hopefulness.
There are several similar shots where Guadagnino uses the background and nature to telegraph what the characters are feeling or thinking. Another great example is the camera switching to a 4:3 close-up profile shot of Lee. The character is looking, but a building in the background holds the remains of a violent act. It’s as if the character is of two minds at the moment and how the building is the dominating thought. Again, the director uses violence as a valid use of storytelling, not as a gimmick.
The film’s use of cannibalism is done with a modest taste—pun not intended. A lesser director would’ve exploited the cannibalism angle, but Guadagnino uses it expertly and only when the story calls for it. The use of the topic indicates a level of letting one be honest and showing the characters their true selves. This notion leads to the idea of being born with an addiction and how to cope with that.
I have a feeling that Kajganich’s writing inspiration stem, in reality, from the case of kids whose parents were addicts at the time of pregnancy. It’s just a part of these people’s lives; they are misunderstood for that, and they must find ways to cope. Kajganich’s screenplay works on par with the direction and meshes well with the talent of Russell and Chalamet. The two work perfectly with one another as the movie explores each character’s inner thoughts. A strong sense of “show and don’t tell” had me invested in almost every minute of the film.
I felt I could fully embrace the characters and their character arch to a heartbreaking conclusion when it unfolded. It’s funny because there was a moment where it appeared the Bones and All was going to end on a possible happy note, but Kajganich’s had more to say that made the eventual emotional gut punch much harder.
Bones and All is from the guy that directed Call Me By Your Name and 2018’s Suspiria. There’s a level of knowing what you’re getting into with his films, but Guadagnino keeps elevating his storytelling style. The cast was amazing to watch, and had a damn good screenplay from Kajganich. I could’ve sat through another hour with these characters. However, those in front and behind the camera knew how to end Bones and All on the right note. I loved it.