Luca Guadagnino is one of the most unique filmmakers working. Few directors can boast a three-peat quite as impactful as Call Me By Your Name, the Suspiria remake, and now Bones and All. It’s yet another string to the Italian auteur’s bow: a visually stunning yet thematically revolting love story that lingers in the soul. With the Oscars season in full swing, it’s increasingly baffling how the Academy overlooked such a special film.

Bones and All primarily follows Maren (Taylor Russell), a nomad teen abandoned by her father due to her unquenchable appetite for human flesh. She then embarks on a desolate journey across 1980s America, searching both for other ‘feeders’, and the truth behind her condition. Along the way she meets Lee (Timothée Chalamet), a fellow feeder equally estranged from society. But theirs is a path fraught with peril, as the leering elder feeder Sully (Mark Rylance) fixates himself on Maren.

In the strangest of ways, Bones and All is a love story. It doesn’t initially appear that way – certainly not after a blisteringly gruesome but absolutely fitting opening sequence – but as the film lingers on the blossoming romance between Maren and Lee, this much becomes obvious. In fact, Bones and All is less of an out-and-out horror film, instead mixing the romance of Call Me By Your Name with the violence of Suspiria. It’s anchored by engrossing performances by the two leads, especially Taylor Russell. She conveys both weakness and brutality, wrangling with her guttural need to feed against her desire to live some semblance of a normal life.

It’s evident how isolated these two characters are from society, leading Bones and All to be an all-encompassing road movie, almost solely focused on the cannibal couple. For some, this may cause some pacing issues: the middle act is fairly light on plot development, instead focusing on their forays across rustic, rural America alone, feeding as they go. Your enjoyment of this section, in what is a fairly long film, will depend entirely on how invested you are into Maren and Lee. There could be a lack of narrative thrust here, but on a personal level, I enjoyed getting to spend more time with these characters, in their semblance of what normality is, as they consider their morality and the tender balance between temptation and criminality. It’s closer to a hangout movie at these points, which could be divisive.

But when Bones and All gets going, it’s utterly gripping and gruesome at the same time. A special mention must go to Mark Rylance, undoubtedly one of the best actors working right now. His turn as Sully, a shrill, quiet, yet unerringly creepy cannibal who tries to mentor Maren, is spellbinding and repulsive in equal measure. It’s baffling how Rylance in particular didn’t get a Best Supporting Actor nomination, because his is a performance that’ll definitely stick with you.

Guadagnino’s previous forays into horror strike the perfect balance between implied violence and outright gore. Given its subject matter, Bones and All is more forthcoming with its viscera, more than earning its 18 rating. Props must go to the brilliant practical effects, which will often make you recoil from just how realistic it all looks. Guadagnino uses violence sparingly, which makes it hit even harder when these moments arrive.

More than anything, the greatest achievement of Bones and All is how it makes you care for a pair of nomad cannibals. It’s testament to Guadagnino’s direction, which puts the characters first while not shying away from their flaws, and the flawless performances across the board. Bones and All is yet another tremendous effort from the sorely underrated Italian director, and harshly misses out on the Oscar recognition it more than deserved.


Bones and All is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray Combi Pack.