‘Bones and All’: the coming-of-age horror


Courtesy of @BonesandAllFilm Twitter

Timothée Chalamet as Lee (left) and Taylor Russell as Marin Yearly (right) from Guadagnino’s Bones and All

By Sasha Zirin, Assistant Living Arts Editor

This review contains spoilers.

Bones and All” is a heartbreaking film that rattles the viewer to their core through its unique use of cannibalism as a metaphor for an uncontrollable addiction.

Director Luca Guadagnino, notably known for his work in “Call Me by Your Name, casts Timothée Chalamet once again for another coming-of-age book adaptation—this time through the genre of horror.

Based on the book by Camille DeAngelis, Chalamet and actress Taylor Russell play young adults Lee and Marin, respectively. The two characters meet and fall deeply in love, while harboring the same miserable secret: they are cannibals.

Despite the protagonists being cannibalistic, the audience isn’t supposed to wish ill will on them. Why? They are simply victims of circumstance—cannibalism in this film is a hereditary, destructive addiction: Lee inherited from his father, Marin from her mother.

Lee and Marin are essentially normal people. They laugh and cry like everyone else, and yet they are still plagued with this all-consuming, violent craving. 

In another movie, they would be depicted as the murderous villains, and the audience would feel that whenever they eat someone. This film, however, paints a more empathetic, emotional picture. For example, they unknowingly “fed on” and killed someone who had a family, which triggered Marin to cry with guilt.

Like with most addictions, Marin and Lee aren’t fully able to see the consequences of their actions until after the fact. This adds to the brutally honest allegorical plot of the film, through the usage of two polarizing genres—a romantic coming-of-age combined with an eerie, gory horror/thriller.

The film effectively merges the two genres in a way that creates a balance that keeps the audience engrossed. Will the next scene be a cute romantic moment? Will it be a peaceful pan over the rural midwest that Marin and Lee travel through? Or will it be a gruesome, bloody act of “feeding”?

Marin meets Lee after her dad abandoned her once she turned 18. Her dad left her a cassette in which he said that he cares about her, and that he believes that her being an “eater” is something that she has to do, something that she can’t fully control. And yet, after grappling with both Marin and her mother being cannibals, and having to move every time Marin “fed,” her father could not take it anymore. 

He also mentions that the first time Marin fed was when she was three, fifteen years ago—which is also when Marin’s mother checked herself into a mental health institution.

It becomes continuously apparent that being an “eater” is a metaphor for chronic or genetic addiction.

The way cannibalism is depicted is terrifying, hence why it can be somewhat refreshing to have the romance between Marin and Lee run through the whole movie. The genres clash masterfully.

Throughout the movie, neither Marin or Lee have much of a place to go, so they continue to travel together. Along their journeys, they come into contact with more “eaters”, because of their ability to detect one another via smell.

These scenes are often the most eerie—because the other eaters always look dangerous—and the audience is left unsure as to what will happen. The most prominent example of this is with cannibal Sully, the first “eater” that Marin meets, who shows her the ropes of how to be an ‘eater’ in adulthood. 

Marin told him that she didn’t trust him, after finding out that he had been following her and Lee for several weeks. He takes extreme offense and then eventually breaks into Marin and Lee’s apartment. The duo fights him off and eventually murder him via stabbing.

Sully’s scenes are some of the creepiest parts of the movie because there is a lot of suspense leading up to his death. He acts continuously disturbing towards Marin throughout the movie. Following her around for weeks whilst resenting her for rejecting his intense attachment towards her. But his climactic closure doesn’t occur until the end.

The last scene of the movie, the one in which Sully dies and their apartment is covered in blood, is symbolic of the contrasting genres. The camera keeps going from the part of their apartment where murder is happening to parts of their apartment that are clean, peaceful, and pleasant.

Despite this, it is still a coming-of-age movie, as it is about a girl who goes out into the world and gains independence. It follows that classic narrative structure as Marin leaves home, meets new people—including someone she falls in love with—and learns how to deal with her problems, desires, and all-consuming addiction. She has to learn how to live her life while navigating this problem she cannot escape. 

The movie is executed well through Russell and Chalamet’s strong performances, realistic gore, and well-done cinematography. There were numerous shots of the midwest sunsets, which also contributed to the unique dichotomy between cannibalism and a ‘normal’ human life.

The film eloquently draws connections between its coinciding genres and themes of addiction. If you are looking to be at the edge of your seat, ‘Bones And All’ is worth the watch.