November 28, 2022


Timothée Chalamet is back to complicate your crush on him. 

The It Boy who has awed critics and seduced fans with his riveting turns in Call Me By Your Name, Ladybird, and Little Women takes “bad boy” to a whole new level with his performance as a cannibal in Bones and All. On its surface, the road trip movie about teen runaways on a murder spree seems to follow in the tradition of Badlands or Natural Born Killers. But in the hands of director Luca Guadagnino (Suspiria, Call Me By Your Name), this audacious adaption of Camille DeAngelis’s YA novel plays closer to Interview with a Vampire, offering an intoxicating tale of queer love and self-discovery that’s dripping with blood. 

In this Call Me By Your Name mini-reunion, Chalamet stars as a young and alluring drifter named Lee who fatefully comes across the recently disowned Maren (Taylor Russell), who is on a wobbly quest to find her long-lost mother. Quickly the pair realize they’re both “eaters,” essentially cannibals who were born to crave human flesh. Their meet-cute is anything but, involving homicide and the hasty decision to team up and take off — in a stolen truck, no less. But from their first shared glance, it’s clear these two see something in each other that the rest of the world misses. 

Together, Maren and Lee will hunt. They will search for the truth about Maren’s missing mom, and they will dodge the other eaters, whose wildness and weirdness are uniquely unsettling. But can a life eating on the run bring them anything but pain? 

Under its skin, Bones and All is a queer love story. 


Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Yes, yes. Maren is a young woman, and Lee is a young man. However, in the film, Lee is presented as sexually fluid in his desires and is derided with a gay slur for the way he dresses. Beyond this though, in Guadagnino’s adaptation of DeAngelis’s book, cannibalism serves as a metaphor for queerness. 

Before you blanch, consider that queer desire has throbbed at the heart of horror films since James Whale gave us Frankenstein, a tale where a man’s desire to marry can’t compare to his desire to build the man of his dreams. Is that playing a bit with the film’s literal plot? Sure, but for decades rampant homophobia in America has forced Hollywood filmmakers into the closets of queer coding, from the mother-obsessed Psycho to the domestic partnership of the bloodsuckers in Interview a Vampire. These frightening figures defied gender norms, found lasting bonds in same-sex relationships, and struggled with the horror of having society deem them a monster. Bones and All carries on the tradition with its coming-of-age story set in the Reagan era. 

Here, sexual desire is tied to cannibalism from an opening slumber party, where flirtation swiftly escalates to a gruesome bite. In Lee, Maren sees someone who understands and shares this desire. Together, they explore this dark impulse, driven by the need to eat but terrified by what it could mean to find someone to share this lifestyle with. Like Interview with the Vampire, the people-devouring scenes have an element of sensuality to them. Characters shed their clothes or come out of kill scenes with hair tousled. They pant and moan as they bite, claw, and dig into their victims. But unlike Interview with the Vampire, Bones and All doesn’t allow audiences to swoon with its eaters. 

Bones and All is intensely violent and not for the faint of stomach. 

Taylor Russell and Mark Ryland in


Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Remember the food porn shots in Guadagnino’s I Am Love? Remember the camera’s patient capturing of every curve and detail of a delicate dish? Now, imagine that focus and fascination applied to presenting a man’s nipple being bitten right off his chest.

Bones and All doesn’t hold back in its use of gore, much like in Guadagnino’s gruesome remake of Suspiria. Even a hardened horror fan like myself was gasping in shock at the tearing of flesh and its consumption here. Such grisly content might seem out of balance with the otherwise dreamy tone of the film, which cruises from state to state, month to month, in a happily hazy blur of lust and crime. However, Guadagnino employs the repulsion at these scenes of cannibalism to reflect Maren’s self-hatred, born from being raised in the age of Ronald Reagan, where preppy conformity was the rule of the day and gay men were dying of AIDS before an apathetic president. Her father taught her that her desires were evil and should be hidden, and so she did… until she couldn’t. 

In seeking her mother, Maren finds a chosen family in Lee. She also finds cautionary tales, like a wild-grinned redneck (Call Me By Your Name’s Michael Stuhlbarg in a hair-raising performance) and an eccentric old loner (Mark Rylance, who is winsome and terrifying in turn). But as she begins to find confidence in who she is and what she loves, the depictions of violence change. Her final kill is no less bloody than her first but is shot in a way that almost mimics a love scene, focusing on connection over destruction. In doing so, Guadagnino creates an arc of Maren’s maturity through self-love (and yes, fictional cannibalism). 

Timothée Chalamet and Mark Rylance are awe-striking in Bones and All. 

Director Luca Guadagnino on the set of


Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Chalamet is superbly cast as Lee, a dream boy who could be a nightmare. His wiry frame, mop of sloppily dyed pink hair, and array of tattered floral tops plays like the thrift shop version of Leonardo DiCaprio in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Literally, Lee is the poor man’s Leo, boasting all the allure but on a budget. 

Poverty is key to understanding both lead lovers, who — like many LGBTQ youths — have been disowned or ostracized because of their desires, and so they live on the streets, scraping by however they can. In this storm of crisis, Chalamet is calm and breezy to soothe Maren’s last nerve. But he is not numb, and his pain will come in a climactic catharsis that is as harrowing as it is weirdly exhilarating. 

In sharp contrast to Lee is Sully, a would-be mentor who carries a soft tone with an edge of menace. Oscar-winner Rylance (Bridge of Spies) could be a contender for Best Supporting actor, that is if the Academy can stomach his darkest scenes. The English actor with the mug of an adoring grandad walks a razor’s edge between endearing and unnerving. In one sequence, you might wish fiercely for Maren to follow Sully, the quirky but protective guncle. In the next, your skin might be covered in goosebumps as your whole body wills you to flee, wishing you could drag Maren with you. With a hard look or a soft hiss, Rylance can do a 180 that’ll make your head spin and your spine shudder. 

Yet for all this, Bones and All is Russell’s movie. Her role is far from the showiest, made up of silent stares and cautious speech. But that’s by design. Maren is a young woman who has been pressured for so long to confine herself to a little box of what society says she should be that it takes her much of the movie to creep out from behind the walls she’s built. As her vulnerability blossoms, the stoney exterior steadily crumbles, giving us access to her passions and pain. Russell’s restraint builds Maren’s journey slowly but surely, standing up to the incredible screen presence of her heralded co-stars without aiming to outshine them. Hers is not a flashy role, but a slow burn that sets fire in the final act, leaving the audience flushed. 

Like I Am Love and Call Me By Your Name before it, Luca Guadagnino Bones and All is a romance that is so intensely sensual that it lingers like the touch of a lover’s touch on your lips even after they leave.

With his latest, he embraces body horror to express homophobic self-loathing brutally fostered by society in Reagan-era America. By casting a modern It Boy to reminisce about those who came before, he lures older audiences into a familiar rush of adolescent lust. By stacking his cast with dazzling young talent and established supporting players, Guadagnino brings a steady stream of intensity, whether a scene be about cannibalism or coupling up. They are our unflinching guides through this world of spit, snot, and blood. And through all this muck, mayhem, and murder, the film uncovers a deep empathy for queer youth desperate to be understood and loved.

In the end, Bones and All is as radiantly romantic as it is unapologetically horrific. In this, it’s not just a gem of queer horror but one of the best films of 2022. 

Bones and All is now in theaters.

UPDATE: Nov. 22, 2022, 5:17 p.m. EST Bones and All was originally reviewed out of the 60th New York Film Festival on October 17, 2022. This piece has been republished to toast its theatrical release.





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