Guadagnino’s latest is a mild disappointment, a coming-of-age road movie featuring two cannibal lovers that rarely comes close to breaking out of its conceptual conceit.
Dir. Luca Guadagnino
2022 | USA | Drama/Horror/Romance | 130 mins | 1.85:1 | English
R21 (passed clean) for strong, bloody and disturbing violent content, language throughout, some sexual content and brief graphic nudity.
Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Taylor Russell, Mark Rylance
Plot: Abandoned by her father, a young woman named Maren embarks on a thousand-mile odyssey through the backroads of America where she meets Lee, a disenfranchised drifter. But despite their best efforts, all roads lead back to their terrifying pasts.
Awards: Won Silver Lion – Best Director & Marcello Mastroianni Award – Best Young Actor or Actress (Venice)
Distributor: Warner Bros
Subject Matter: Slightly Disturbing – Cannibalism; Coming-of-age
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Viewed: In Theatres – The Projector
I’ve been following Luca Guadagnino’s career since his breakthrough film, I Am Love (2009). He would reach even greater fame with Call Me by Your Name (2017). Here, he reunites with Timothee Chalamet in what could be the director’s weakest effort in a long while.
I’ll be a tad more charitable—it’s a mild disappointment to me, though it should appeal to most cinephiles looking for something off-kilter yet somewhat mainstream enough to garner awards buzz.
Guadagnino brings Camille DeAngelis’ novel to the big screen, with the requisite extreme wide shots of the mythic American vistas. These are also the vistas of freedom as two cannibal lovers seek to find themselves within the unknowns of blossoming love, external threats and cosmic fate.
“I don’t trust you. It doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong about that, it matters that I feel it.”
Taylor Russell (of 2019’s Waves) gives the film’s finest performance opposite Chalamet, and in a few sequences of unease and dread, effortlessly matches veteran actor Mark Rylance, who plays an old cannibal longing for companionship. Not everyone is a cannibal, of course—they are a rare breed, and a metaphor for the outcasts in society with no place of normalcy for them.
The film does go into gory territory but despite its shifts in tone from horror to romance to carefree road movie, Guadagnino’s work rarely comes close to breaking out of its conceptual conceit. What I mean is that Bones and All seems overly fixated on itself—that because it is a studio-backed cannibal movie, it is not obliged to do anything more for its characters.
So whatever fates these human-eating folks meet, we are asked to buy into them. I think films with similar ideas like Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) and Raw (2016) have fared better with their imagination and provocation.