I have a complicated relationship with Luca Guadagnino. I love his work, sans one film of his, and even consider his 2018 remake of Suspiria to be in my top 5 films of all time (sidenote: someone please take the rights to the home entertainment of that film from Lionsgate and release a proper 4K special edition), but the “one film” of his I can’t stand happens to be the one that most think of when thinking of Guadagnino: Call Me by Your Name. I just…can’t with it. The romance has never made me not feel absolutely icky, and now, given the current context surrounding Armie Hammer and his off-screen exploits, it’s just not a film I would ever want to return to so much so that it actually has put me off of the work of Timothée Chalamet as a result (don’t hold me to this). So imagine my excitement when I discover that Guadagnino and screenwriter David Kagjanich (Suspiria, and also wrote the excellent teleplay to The Terror, based off of my favorite book of all time) came together for a cannibal romance film starring Taylor Russell and…Chalamet. It felt like the human embodiment of having the wind taken immediately out of my sails, but I still, despite my aversions, gave Bones and All a chance when it first released theatrically.
I promise, I eat my words here just as much as Russell and Chalamet eat other people in this film. I’m never too big enough to admit when I was not only wrong, but so wrong.
Set vaguely within the Reagan Era of the 1980s, Bones and All sees us follow Maren (Taylor Russell), a soft-spoken, kind teenage girl who has trouble connecting with those around her. While she is friendly and likable, she’s constantly having to move schools and can’t keep the friends she makes as soon as she loses control of her instinctual, if not inherently evil, hunger for human flesh. Unable to live in fear, Maren is abandoned by her desperate father (André Holland) when she turns 18, and she is left to fend for herself on the open road of suburban America. Soon, she learns that she is not the only “Eater” around, discovering quietly menacing Sully (Mark Rylance), who introduces her to ways to survive, drifters Jake (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Brad (David Gordon Green) who expose her to the hedonistic side of being an Eater, and Lee (Timothée Chalamet), a free-spirit who simply wants his own place in the world in the same way Maren does, unbound by this gruesome need he never asked for. Together, they travel west to forge a new life for themselves and to discover answers on Maren’s mysterious mother (Chloë Sevigny).
One can take Bones and All at face value (many did) and shout “How can you root for these people? They’re eating other humans. You’re sick for liking this.” And sure, maybe that last part is true for me, but those shouting are failing to see the big picture of the film, particularly in its clever use of human flesh as a mirror to any sort of addiction one can find themselves having in our world of self-indulgent pleasure-seeking, and how many different forms the same addiction can take given the addict’s own personal situation. It’s not lost on me that many of those missing the deeper point to Bones and All think down on addicts already, so going deeper would make no difference in its overall theme, but for those with even the slightest bit of media literacy and critical thinking skills, once Bones and All clicks, it opens up like a flower and reveals a beautiful love story in an incredibly purgatorial world.
Are you ready for me to eat my words? I’m sacrificing a lot of pride to say this, but let’s do it…Chalamet is absolutely excellent in this film, so much so that I would say that I am a fan who was being a hater for no real reason. Still, as excellent as he is here, to say Bones and All is anything but Russell’s film would be a disservice to her genuinely show-stopping performance. How she evaded a fierce Oscar campaign à la Andrea Riseborough is beyond me, but MGM dropping the ball on their awards prospects isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s actually expected at this point. Russell, mild-mannered as Maren is, quickly finds her voice as her frustrations with her addiction she never asked for begin to (figuratively and literally) consume her life, while also finding the moments of joy she can find with Lee, who makes her comfortable for the first time in her life. The journey we go on with Maren, and subsequently with Russell, was one of my favorites of this past year, and I wish we could honor it more.
And quick hot take. I’ve seen some rumblings about how Mark Rylance is bad in this film, and I really have to ask: In what world? This performance gave me shivers down to my core, both from an initial bout of sympathy for the old man, and then in paralyzing fear over what this old man can really do. Is that not a very successful performance?
Bones and All isn’t much of a looker as a whole, nor is it meant to be. The American midwest isn’t particularly the most geographically splendorous locale for a road movie, and nor does it try to be. This is prime Ethel Cain-esque Americana (right on down to the cannibalism of Preacher’s Daughter), and despite the visual blandness of its setting, still features all the splendors of a film directed by Guadagnino. In fact, what we really have here is a culmination of the romantic meandering of Call Me by Your Name, and the horrifying shock and awe of Suspiria working as one. Take that as you will, but even as someone who hated the former, it works on such a more effective level here.
Warner Bros.’s Blu-ray release of Bones and All is about what one would expect from a physical media release of a film that didn’t court a ton of viewers in theaters. The 1080p transfer, while I would’ve loved it in full 4K, still does well to really paint a vivid, if chromatically bland, picture of love on the run. What most surprised me here though is its inclusion of a true Dolby Atmos audio mix (eat your heart out, Cloverfield), one that is reserved but completely appreciated thanks to the absolutely stunning score from Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross that really help fill the room with lovely atmospherics and swelling orchestrations. It’s something I really didn’t expect Warner Bros. to go out of their way to include, but I’m glad they did.
While we aren’t left completely without special features like another recent release of one of my favorite films of last year (*cough*TÁR*cough*), it’s still a pretty paltry inclusion of pre-release electronic press kit (EPK)s around two minutes in length each, absolutely made for promotion of the film’s theatrical release, not that of post-viewing home media supplements. They are as follows:
- A Look Inside
- Luca Guadagnino: The Vision of Bones and All
- Meet Lee
- Meet Maren
- Outsiders in Love
- Digital copy of film
I struggle with keeping up with how MGM decides who releases which of their Blu-rays. I used to think Universal distributed the mainline MGM titles, while Warner Bros. tackled the Orion Pictures releases, but now with Bones and All and Three Thousand Years of Longing going to Warner Bros., and Till and Women Talking going to Universal, I’m more confused than ever. Regardless of who released the Blu-ray, it doesn’t change how truly moving Bones and All is as both a thriller with major body horror elements to it (this film pushes its R-rating hard) and a sweeping romance film, which is also saying a lot since I don’t often publicly fawn over heterosexual romance. Russell continues to be a revelation, always making “star-making” performances, despite the same people who describe her performances as such refusing to associate her with her peers who they’ve deemed stars from the start. While the release is technically impressive, it’s supplementally underwhelming, and I really don’t understand why in 2023 we aren’t making 4K releases a standard inclusion for films of this size. I’ve certainly come across lazier releases for far worse films.
Available on VOD and digital December 17th, 2022.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD January 31st, 2023.
For more information, head to the official MGM Studios Bones and All webpage.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5.
Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming
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