No one does "mild-mannered guy who seems friendly but does this thing that suggests he'd like to slice off your tongue and use it as a coaster" better than Mark Rylance.
The theater veteran, an Oscar winner as a shy psycho in "Bridge of Spies," is more brutal in "Bones and All," which pretty much has to be described as a cannibal romance. Rylance affably greets the movie's protagonist, Maren (Taylor Russell), but then starts slurping on his teeth and giggling nervously, and it's only a matter of time before he's serving her a human meal.
Make no bones about it, "Bones and All" is a bold, risk-taking movie. Cannibalism is a metaphor for something or other — Addiction? Feeling like an outsider? Going all-in for love? — but it's also very much a literal thing, as represented by Rylance, Russell and Timothée Chalamet. The "Call Me by Your Name" Oscar nominee plays a guy Maren meets on her travels who's a real sweetheart if you can overlook the fact that he, too, has a taste for human tartare.
"Bones" has short, shocking blasts of brutality but it's mostly a low-key romance about worrying you're the only person in the world who feels the way you do. Russell and Chalamet's emo performances are long on adolescent angst. It's the opposite approach of Nicolas Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas," which also explored extreme behavior in surprisingly relatable characters, but it has the same effect as Cage's. It makes us lean in to listen to these seemingly inhuman humans to find out what they might have to say to us.
It's not a movie for everyone, or even many people I know. Plenty of "Bones" seems ridiculous if looked at from the wrong angle — why, for instance, do the cannibals wander around with blood all over their faces, as if they've never heard of washcloths? But director Luca Guadagnino establishes a mood of doomed romance, similar to a skilled production of "Romeo and Juliet," and he sustains it, largely because his leads are all on the same disturbing page.
For Minnesotans, there's a bonus: Although "Bones" was filmed in Nebraska, much of it is set here, in small towns including Bagley, Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls. The contrast between these bucolic places and the tortured characters is unsettling, and might make you think twice if you're heading northwest for the holidays.
'BONES AND ALL'
3 stars (out of 4)
MPAA rating: R (for strong, bloody and disturbing violent content, language throughout, some sexual content and brief graphic nudity)
Running time: 2:10
How to watch: In theaters Wednesday