66th BFI London Film Festival: Bones and All | 25YL

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We can’t help but stifle a chuckle at the irony. Luca Guadagnino becomes a household name after his release call me by your namea tender, vibrant, period coming-of-age romance, star Armie Hammer disappears from the public eye due to extremely disturbing and surprisingly believable cannibalism allegations, and Guadagnino follows with another tender, vibrant period. aged romance, featuring Hammie co-star Timothee Chalamet, this one—bones and all– explicitly about cannibals. Surely it’s not a coincidence, is it?

No matter. There’s a shadow hanging over bones and all and it’s not Mr. Hammer. This is Badlandsor more generally, one of many New Hollywood films about young destroyers at war with themselves and society. From nowhere came to mind most easily, but there are a lot of Bonnie and Clyde in there, and yes, a ton of almost dark, because these kids have a little more reason than most to think of themselves as outsiders, which puts them as much in the tradition of American Gothic as they are of typical Americana. The film’s cinematic aesthetic makes its genre roots explicit, as does the early ’80s setting.

bones and all mostly functions as a revamp of the tropes established by those earlier films and it’s hard to look past that pastiche. The films he riffs on were undoubtedly seminal works of American mythmaking, exploring a lost and confused generation, where the counterculture had rejected the corrupt and mind-numbing traditions of the first half of the century, but efforts to sow the seeds of something new had fallen on the parched earth. It’s a very different time now, but we still face those same issues, albeit refracted through new lenses. bones and all is pretty committed to the goals of its ancestors, and I can’t blame viewers who walk away from it feeling like they just put on what they thought was a new original only to hear a cover version instead . Still, there’s little doubt about the enormous talents of Guadagnino and co. who has assembled a film that at least equals the outer beauty and inner roughness of his best influences.

The film stars Taylour Russell as Maren, whom we first meet as an outsider at a new high school, only for it to quickly become abundantly clear why her father (a typically thoughtful and sensitive Andre Holland ) feels the need to keep her moving. and prevent him from socializing with his peers. Left to her own devices, she discovers that there are others like her in the world and begins her search for answers. No small questions about her origins, but deeper questions about who she will become now, the possible answers to which come first in the form of the creepy Sully (an offbeat performance by Mark Rylance) and from there through the sexy bad boy Lee (Timothee Chalamet, giving perhaps his best performance yet).

What follows is in the mold of other coming-of-age novels, so much so that the whole cannibalism starts to feel almost like an afterthought. Sometimes it gets very literal, sometimes so obtuse that it starts to sound silly, honestly. Like an ambitious mash-up of Raw and ParisTexas Where Badlands and Doctor Sleep. The film has its joking moments, and some extremely heartfelt ones, and finds success and failure in both. It would be a lie to say that the film manages to make the plot an effective vehicle for the story it tells, but like many road movies, it’s the character’s inner journeys that cover the most miles. Maren’s journey to find out who she is and what she wants reaches devastating levels of intensity, as does her romance with Lee and her battle with her own demons, and Russell and Chalamet play it beautifully. Chalamet in particular is resisting the lure of his own matinee idol potential. Lee may look like a flashy poser, but Chalamet gives Lee’s troubled spirit wings and makes you believe he exists.

More than any of those other movies I mentioned, bones and all is a deeply human story about the growth of a young woman and two broken people who find comfort in each other’s sympathy. I’ve heard it described as the most romantic movie of the year and yes, there are moments in the third act that really hit home. Even if all the turns in his road do not work, bones and all always finds a way to sink your teeth.

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