Bones And All

Where I Watched It: iTunes

English Audio Description provided By: Deluxe

Narrated By: William michael Redmond

I try to approach all films with some form of neutrality. Try. Obviously, I can’t help myself from being excited about an upcoming film, but even when I think I won’t like a film, I remind myself that I have been pleasantly surprised in the past. I thought I would hate Bones and all. I haven’t ever been really connected to anything Luca Guadanino has done in the past, and didn’t even bother to check if that was the right spelling of his name. When he burst onto the scene with Call me By your Name, I felt like i was somehow a bad gay because I wasn’t a fan. I never watched Suspiria, but i did see a few episodes of the show he did for HBo.

This is far and away the best thing he’s done. It’s creepy, it walks a fine line between stomach churning horror, and just atmospheric horror. It’s like watching a film that tries to humanize someone you believe cannot be humanized, and you find yourself coming to a point where even in the loosest terms, there’s a protagonist, a hero, or a character to root for even though by all accounts everyone in this film is, well, a cannibal.

Whether you showed up for the artsy take on this novel from Luca, or to get your sexy Chalamet fix, or see Mark Rylance in his SAG nominated performance, every person you encounter in this film that is a substantial character will talk about eating people and likely will eat someone over the course of the film. Bones and All is very up front with it, having Taylor Russell’s character cross that line within the first five minutes.

But, it still takes this “they’re just like us” approach, having these people be relatable and just somewhat off the beaten path. This isn’t some vampire movie where everyone lurks in the shadows all the time, or they have some established underground ring. These are just cannibals, who roam, looking for their next meal, and have rules they live by in order to survive. Obviously, this is quite a loners game, as it is hard to trust another person who wants to eat you.

Taylor Russell’s young cannibal is our introduction to a world where she operates almost like any other runaway teen, except for her hunger. When she runs into Mark Rylance’s wise old cannibal, he does teach her some things she didn’t know. An established cannibal, or as they prefer to be called eaters, can actually smell another one. it’s how he found her. He could smell her. He teaches her his set of rules, opens up a bit, and then they eat someone together. And man, do they eat this person.

One of the more effective things here is the sound design, which amplifies the ripping and tearing of flesh, the gnawing and gnashing that goes on, as it is complimented by Redmond’s audio description that lets us know what lovely images we are missing, as blood covers their face and runs down the front of their shirts. This is very much a film I would have not made it through, or chosen to watch, if i wasn’t blind. Only one cannibal movie has ever even kind of impressed me, and that was Ravenous, which took a somewhat darkly comedic take. Otherwise, I just don’t want to watch people eat people.

But, dammit, this movie is fantastic. The way the story weaves, making us feel like we’re on a road trip movie at times, or just a love story between two perfectly normal young folk. Chalamet and Russell are excellent together, and even as exciting as Russell is as a new presence in Hollywood, it is hard to not be drawn to the tremendous work done by Mark Rylance, who really does earn his SAG nomination. He reminds us how his third person referential Sully is more than meets the eye as the film progresses, and he eventually becomes responsible for some of the films most horrifying moments, despite initially seeming like the lost twin to Mr. Roger’s.

I also can’t leave this review without mentioning a fucking terrifying performance from Michael Stuhlbarg. Jesus. This guy started out in A Serious Man, playing some quiet nerdy guy, and now he’s constantly playing villains, and he’s excellent at them. He needs to be a Bond villain. The few minutes he’s on screen devolve quickly, and he’s the character tasked with using the films title, in his explanation of a total consumption of your meal. Apparently, you haven’t lived as a cannibal until you’ve devoured every part, “bones and all”.

Aside from having a terrific cast, and Luca managing to direct from an excellent script, as well as horrifyingly accurate and terrifying narration from William michael Redmond, we have to also praise the sound. Not just the sound design and mixing, which I already referenced, but also the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. This was clearly robbed of a score nomination, as well as for the original song “You Make It Feel Like home”, which comes in at just the right moment at the end of the film.

I respect the hell out of everything this film did, and it might be the best cannibal movie I’ve ever listened to. but, that’s where i come to the difficult part. Whether I like it or not, I am 100% certain that i would have shut this film off, or walked out if I wasn’t blind. This film is getting praise from me because it is much easier to listen to people being eaten with an audio description track, than to watch it. I’ve watched a few films that push the boundaries of “would I have watched this?”, but bones And All falls squarely into the “No.” category for me, as I’m sure it has for many other voters along the way, which is why it hasn’t been nominated as much as it really deserves.

So if you’re asking me why my review is an A minus, and not a full out A, it’s that recognition that the only reason I’m here, the only reason you are getting this review, is because I’m blind. That’s it. And my overall taste in film is still shaped from the first 34 years of my life before being diagnosed. I am someone who had to watch Salo in film school, and I walked out of class. I made it to a point, couldn’t do it anymore, and now I put Salo on the bottom of my list. Maybe Salo with audio description would have also had a different result.

So, this film has a ceiling. It is at its ceiling. This A- is as high as it can go. Whether that’s fiar or not, I don’t know. I often still find myself wrestling with this whole thing myself, as I would love to talk about cinematography, but can’t. Instead, I talk about audio description, and what it’s like for a blind viewer, and the blind version of me loved it. But the blind version of me has only seen a fraction of the titles that the sighted half of me has. Perhaps, down the line when that is a bit more even, I’ll be able to reconcile giving something I never would have seen otherwise an A. But for now, putting it up there as a perfect film along with all my other favorites just doesn’t make sense.

This is my conundrum, and my honesty, bones and all.

Final Grade: A-

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