“Bones and All” is not your everyday cannibal love story.
The eaters, as they call themselves, don’t dine at a table, with a leg portion stewing with peas and carrots on the stovetop. No, they don’t cook human flesh. They just start chewing on folks, raw and bloody.
The eaters can smell other eaters, and some of them can smell the elderly who are about to die. They’re easy pickings for some of the eaters. The desire to eat others is innate, it seems, and probably inheritable.
If this sounds like B-movie material, then you should know that “Bones and All” is most definitely a prestige project. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival, and it’s directed by Luca Guadagnio, of “Call Me by Your Name” fame.
It also pairs the director with two of his stars from that movie, Timothee Chalamet and Michael Stuhlbarg, who played the benevolent father to Chalamet’s young man.
But the central figure in “Bones and All” is Maren (Taylor Russell), who is drifting around the upper Midwest in the Reagan/Bush era after having made a biting faux pas at a teenage girls’ party. (Political wags might want to make an issue of the time period, but it doesn’t really play a large role in the story, based on a novel by Camilee DeAngelis.)
As Maren drifts around, she meets various characters, including a thoroughly repellant cannibal named Sully (Mark Rylance), who wears a jaunty hat with a feather as well as a fisherman’s jacket. He also has blood-stained teeth. He smells Maren on the street during a rainy night in Ohio and invites her to dine with him at a nearby home.
She agrees, but senses that Sully isn’t a very nice cannibal. So she flees after a messy dinner and meets another eater, Lee (Chalamet), who makes mincemeat out of a bully at a grocery store.
They steal the bully’s truck and begin a road trip, where they meet other characters, most notably Jake (Stuhlbarg), another thoroughly repellant cannibal who is shirtless, with flabby gray arms protruding from a pair of nasty overalls.
He and Maren and Lee have a midnight reverie around a campfire, where Jake talks about his habits, which give the movie its title.
Maren is repelled by Jake, but Lee just casually takes in the information. Maren seems to think that cannibals should have ethics and not hurt other people. Lee seems to think that Maren is being too judgmental, but that doesn’t prevent the two from falling for each other and enjoying each other’s smell.
Oh sure, there are bloody bumps on the road to romance. But as Eleanor of Aquitaine says in “The Lion in Winter,” what family doesn’t have its ups and downs.
Chalamet makes the most of his role as Lee, and Guadagnino’s camera lingers longingly on his high cheekbones and dyed curls. Guadagnino, by the way, won best director at the Venice festival.
Russell, meanwhile, plays Maren with dutiful reluctance, even though she yearns to be like normal folks. Russell, by the way, won best young actor at Venice.
A completely unrecognizable Chloe Sevigny has a small but stunning role near the end. But let’s not spoil that surprise.
“Bones and All” opens in theaters nationwide on Nov. 23, just in time for your Thanksgiving feast. It seems that the movie’s distributor has a perverse sense of humor.