In His Most Underrated Performance, Timothée Chalamet Chowed Down on Human Flesh

Timothée Chalamet's resume is one of the industry's most diverse. From his breakout role as a queer teen experiencing a summer romance in the Italian countryside in Call Me by Your Name and playing the titular icon of Wonka to Paul Atreides in the ever popular (and growing) Dune franchise, there are few moviegoers who haven't been exposed to the A-Lister. Despite his popularity and rise to superstardom, there's one role that has remained criminally underrated along the way.

Released on Thanksgiving weekend in 2022, Bones and All sees Chalamet as Lee, a drifter with a murky past, who goes on a cross-country journey with Maren (Taylor Russell) to find her mother after her father leaves. The two fall in love along the way, but if this sounds like a Nicholas Sparks-style romance, there's a twist: Lee and Maren are cannibals with tendencies that force them to spend their lives on the run. While the film and its visuals definitely play on the graphic side of horror, Chalamet's performance as Lee is one of the finest of his career. Lee's rough persona, mixed with a sensitive side and peppered with truly horrific, yet traumatic moments would be a challenge in less-experienced hands, and while the character might seem quite different from characters like Elio in Call Me by Your Name, it's actually a natural progression from the actor.

Bones and All poster

Bones and All

R

Romance

Horror

610

A young woman embarks on a 1000 mile odyssey through America where she meets a disenfranchised drifter. But all roads lead back to their terrifying pasts and to a final stand that will determine whether love can survive their otherness.

Release Date

November 18, 2022

Director

Luca Guadagnino

Cast

Chloe Sevigny , Timothee Chalamet , Taylor McKenzie , Michael Stuhlbarg , David Gordon Green , Mark Rylance

Runtime

131 minutes

Main Genre

Romance

Writers

David Kajganich

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Timothée Chalamet's Performance in 'Bones and All' Is Both Chilling and Sympathetic

Chalamet has always been gifted when it comes to strong, intense performances. His role as Lee in Bones and All not only continues that tradition, but also becomes one of his greatest examples. When Maren first meets Lee, he's intensely rough around the edges. He's the second "eater" (the term that the cannibalistic characters use to refer to themselves) that she's come in contact with and seems the lesser of two evils, despite being covered in the blood of a man that he's just killed and consumed. The first night the two spend together, Lee is quiet, mysterious, and as Maren later puts it, "a hard case."

While this character is a far cry from his largely heroic roles in the past, he peppers Lee with complexities from the beginning. There's a sympathy for Maren that he portrays when they arrive at the house of his first victim where they plan to spend the night. Maren is still uncomfortable with her new life on the run, and to remedy that, Lee puts on a Kiss album and dances around, warming both the scene and Maren. Chalamet claimed that he did a "deep dive" into stadium rock in prep for the film, even though the scene only lasts a few seconds. It's a tribute to just how much thought went into preparing for the controversial role.

As the days pass on in Lee and Maren's cross-country venture and their romance begins, Chalamet's character slowly begins to open up, and his complexities are revealed. The film's midpoint serves as the perfect personification of all that Lee is, allowing Chalamet to balance each one of Lee's characteristics. Lee and Maren attend a carnival, where they share all the romantic makings of a great John Hughes teen romance, but as their date comes to a climax, Maren tells Lee that she's hungry. Lee seduces a young man who works at the carnival before killing him, and afterward, feasts on his flesh with Maren. Such an extreme flip is difficult to portray correctly, but Chalamet plays the role with complete sincerity throughout. Each frame feels real, raw, and right, no matter how romantic or frightening the character appears.

'Bones and All's Best Scene Comes Together Thanks to Chalamet

Maren is curious about Lee's past throughout their journey. Having been on the road for some time and after falling madly in love with one another, Lee finally comes clean. In one of the film's more simply staged scenes, Lee and Maren find themselves in a valley. With nothing but time, Maren finally gets Lee to divulge his past trauma, and throughout this sequence, Lee recounts life with his abusive father. Chalamet delivers a monologue that lasts several minutes and rivals some of the screen's all-time best. Moments where he recounts physical degradation from his father are emotional and real, but much like his performance throughout the film, it naturally builds to a disturbing climax when Lee reveals that he not only fought back against his father, but killed him and ate his corpse. The monologue ends with Lee asking Maren if she thinks that he's a bad person, to which she replies, "All I think is that I love you."

And it's hard not to love Lee. Chalamet's performance is thoughtfully designed to reach this moment. Despite the story's horrors, Chalamet manages to scare the audience while also inspiring them to cry along with him. Despite all the terrible things that his character has done, the actor makes it clear that Lee is far from a villain, and this very scene is what leads to the final showdown with the film's real baddie.

Sully (Mark Rylance), another eater who befriends Maren before she meets Lee (and who has an unhealthy obsession with her), has been stalking her for thousands of miles. He shows up to kill Maren, but is instead defeated (through a graphic battle) by Lee and Maren. Lee is badly hurt, however, and is left near death. He tells Maren that he wants her to eat him, "bones and all." Reluctantly, she does so, and it's an incredibly tough scene to watch, not only because of the graphic nature of Lee's demise, but because of how sympathetic he's become. Had Chalamet not mastered the performance with the same strength, the whole film's ending would have fallen apart. But, as different and challenging as this role may appear, it's no surprise that the role came so naturally for him.

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Chalamet's Casting in 'Bones and All' Makes Perfect Sense

Close

Lee definitely stands out in Chalamet's filmography. After all, his last collaboration with director, Luca Guadagnino, resulted in the dreamy, romantic film, Call Me by Your Name, and Bones and All is quite the jump. But when one considers the sheer diversity of his work as a character actor, taking on a role as complex and disturbing as Lee was a natural progression for him. Chalamet has always been open about his love for Call Me by Your Name and his professional partnership with Guadagnino, so when the director offered the ambitious young actor the chance to become a producer on the film and have input on his character, he jumped on the opportunity. While Bones and All may not have been the box office hit that his other recent films have been, it's certainly a performance that his fans should revisit.

Bones and All is a divisive film due to its graphic nature, but beneath the flesh-eating horrors of the picture lies the most underrated performance of Timothée Chalamet's career. His balance of sympathy and terror is gripping and makes the film work on all levels. Though the role may seem strange compared to the rest of his filmography, it was a natural progression for Chalamet and deserves to be revisited by those who enjoy his work.

Bones and All is available to watch on Amazon Prime in the U.S.

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