Bones and All film review — Luca Guadagnino’s latest is an oddly bloodless cannibal romance

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Friends whose opinions I trust have gone gaga for Bones and All, the gory new romance from Luca Guadagnino, director of Call Me By Your Name and more. Honestly, I only wish I’d seen the movie they did: a brilliant stew of bold transgression and queasy beauty, satire, horror and heartbreak. Like the cannibal we meet who has chewed off their own hands, my lukewarm response is probably my loss.

We can agree on the gist. Guadagnino has made a stylised Gen Z B-movie set in a grungy 1980s, the role of pop culture cipher long played by zombies and vampires now taken instead by “eaters”. Searching for their place in the world, they are just like us, if we too were cursed with a ravening taste for human flesh, and had the star power of Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet.

Russell is excellent. Her heroine Maren is an otherwise ordinary 18-year-old, seeking answers for her appetites on a Greyhound bus across the US. Her discovery is a landscape dotted with fellow eaters, marginals who prey on passers-by. Among the hungry is Kentucky tearaway Lee (Chalamet). Boy meets girl, and dinner follows, played by a supporting character.

The male lead is where my friends and I fall out. A movie star he is. Still, it is easier to buy the idea of massed cannibals roaming the Midwest than Chalamet driving a pick-up truck. The performance is a long way from the silliest on show. (That would be Mark Rylance as a veteran eater, huffing at the air like a macabre Oxo advert.) But it is very much a performance, as mannered as the just-so shots of dowdy American kitchens Guadagnino sprinkles throughout. And the love story of Lee and Maren feels fatally unreal too.

A man in a blue shirt, hat with a feather in and many-pocketed waistcoat looks goofy
Mark Rylance, right, is a silly presence in the film © Yannis Drakoulidis/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

At times the film hints at the modern classic many critics have called it. There are scenes that swim with woozy unease; Reagan analogies more subtle than you might think; endless good-looking moments. But the chemistry at the heart of the matter is oddly bloodless. If only I was less squeamish about that sort of thing.

★★★☆☆

In US cinemas now and UK cinemas from November 25

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