Drifting. Falling. Listlessly tumbling through the infinite ether, no ground to catch you and no heavens to reach, just trapped in the misery of reality. Everything around pushes and pulls, slowly becoming more bruised, more weary, life becoming a neverending yearning for an impossible escape. Crushed by the burdens of our parents’ trauma, locked away by our insecurities, and existing with an insatiable desire for normalcy we become scattered and destructive, blindly consuming obstructions in our path without any idea of the destination at the end of it all.
Fractured memories of flesh and sinew occupy the synapses, just hazy recollections of a repressed and fading youth, emergent now as the comforting shroud of protection is so violently pulled away. All the memories offer now is scattered pain, and the only option is to move forward. Somewhere. Anywhere. Discordant and inharmonious, none of the pieces fit together anymore. Obvious solutions offer no comfort, only more pain. The only way forward through someone else who understands, someone to share the disquieting hum of your own droning anxiety, someone to make it all feel normal. Someone that lets you just be a person. At the bottom of it all, it’s what we really crave.
Luca Guadagnino’s Bones and All is as tender as it is viscerally violent, the unstoppable pain and suffering of finding a place in the world infused with unquenching bloodthirst and the sweet scent of flesh. The familiar trappings of the perennial American road movie shredded and consumed with fervor, all the while capturing a generation’s aimless malaise through the ideal of the vast open horizon and a sprawling spiderweb of asphalt. Almost maliciously deceptive from the outset, the façade of familiarity grants an alarming level of comforting security as it presents the trope-laden confines of high school drama, inching towards its thematic core of adolescent frustration imperceptibly before splitting flesh and spilling blood, shattering all of its constructed falsity with blunt force trauma.
Maren (Taylor Russell) is left adrift at sea, floating in the sticky murk of America’s wilderness with nothing but the shadow her father left behind and a bit of spare cash. She listlessly winds through the country roads in an exasperated search for her mother but she is mercilessly captivated by the intoxicating allure of human flesh, struggling and failing to conceal her own perceived monstrosity, an uncontrollable urge that she will be forever incapable of changing. Some things can’t be fixed, but maybe it’s not about being broken.
Eventually she drifts into the arms of Lee (Timothée Chalamet), another wayward soul searching for purpose who suffers from the same cannibalistic affliction, “eaters,” as the disparate community refer to themselves when they manage to cross paths. With the languorous cinematic energy of Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) and the violent emotional urgency of Badlands (1973), the resulting kaleidoscope of blood and asphalt is stunningly captivating, bolstered by Arseni Khachaturan’s sprawling cinematography, a beautifully discordant score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and several perfectly placed needle drops of emotional catharsis. As the pair of disillusioned young adults drift across the sprawl of the American Midwest their interactions and discoveries slowly reveal who they are to both us and to themselves, a gentle push and pull of self-actualization alongside its brutal outbursts of seething angst.
The labyrinthine complexity here is steadfastly disinterested in any defined cementing of morality, a fundamentally gray portrait of our infinite intricacy woven by veins and tendons. We are products of those who came before us and we are clay molded by the world around us, gasping for agency and seeking a way to understand it all just a little better, to feel like the world is getting a little brighter, to know that someone out there has a little empathy for you. Of course, the world is just as destructively complex as we are, and often our desperate desire for normalcy seems determined to tear us apart from the inside – or threaten us aggressively from the outside. It seems the toppling of it all is a constant inevitability, a repetitious cycle of hardship, a coming of age that lives on ad infinitum as we continue to learn about ourselves as we grow older. It’s hard. It’s brutal. It’s violent. The stains will never wash away. All we can hope for is someone who will offer themselves to us completely. Bones and all.