In this section of the Colossus Movie Guide for Bones and All, we will explain the film’s ending.
- Maren Yearly – Taylor Russell
- Lee – Timothée Chalamet
- Sully – Mark Rylance
- Janelle Kerns – Chloë Sevigny
- Kayla – Anna Cobb
- Frank Yearly – André Holland
- Jake – Michael Stuhlbarg
- Brad – David Gordon Green
- Sherry – Kendle Coffey
- Lance – Jake Horowitz
- Directed by – Luca Guadagnino
- Written by – David Kajganich
- Based on the novel – Bones and All (Camille DeAngelis)
The end of Bones and All explained
Bones and All ends with Sully’s surprise return. He’s broken into the apartment Maren and Lee rent. When Maren arrives home, he pounces and pins her to the bed. He explains his frustration with Maren but also his obsession. He is on the brink of violence. That’s when Lee comes home. Lee surprises Sully by putting a bag over Sully’s head. The two struggle. Even though Sully can’t see or breathe, he manages to stab Lee with a knife. Maren gets up, gets the knife, and the three fall to the ground. There, she mortally wounds Sully. She and Lee then drag Sully to the bathroom, to the bathtub. There, Sully expires.
After the fight, Maren finds Sully’s braided rope of hair from his victims. A newly woven piece is from Kayla, Lee’s sister. Meaning that Sully ate Kayla before coming to Michigan for Maren. Before Maren has time to process this, Lee collapses. His wound is mortal. With only a few minutes left, he and Maren kiss, then he begs her to eat him.
We cut to the apartment, cleaned up and emptied out. There’s still some stains on the floor. The last moments are of Maren and Lee back on the hill in Nevada where they had proclaimed their love for each other. Where they had promised to just be people.
The main themes of Bones and All have to do with history, companionship, and acceptance of the good with the bad. With those things in mind, the ending becomes very symbolic. Sully, in the original book by Camille DeAngelis, is actually Maren’s grandfather. This isn’t revealed in the film. But, in both the film and the book, Sully’s the embodiment of history you can’t escape from. History that haunts you. History you need to confront.
Both Maren and Lee have struggled with aspects of their childhood. For Maren, it’s never knowing her mom. For Lee, it’s eating his abusive father. Together, they help one another confront those things. Lee takes Maren to meet her mom. Maren allows Lee to tell her something he’s kept bottled inside for years. This companionship allows them to heal and, for a little while, to live a mostly normal life. Sully is a reckoning. This unfinished business that spoils the life Maren and Lee have built together.
But Sully’s also the antithesis to what Maren and Lee have. He’s spent most of his life cut off from people .Lonely. Aimless. All he has for companionship is the hair he’s kept from his victims. A way to remember people he connected with, even if it was in a horrific way. So when Maren was kind to him, he became obsessed with her, that’s how overpowering his craving for companionship was. This is another major theme that Bones and All explores throughout the film but that culminates in the final encounter.
Ultimately, the deaths of Sully and Lee represent Maren’s loss of innocence and coming of age. Earlier in the movie, another eater (Jake), older than Maren and Lee, had explained that you reach a point of eating someone “bones and all”. Maren is, of course, grossed out by this.That moment is important because it’s the film framing the act as a “next stage”. That Maren initially rejects this is a typical narrative expression of innocence. It’s like telling the kids from The Sandlot they’ll be too busy to play baseball one day and all of them saying “No, we’ll always play baseball together!” Except much darker. Of course, Sandlot ends with the kids growing up and drifting apart.
So Bones and All ends with Maren’s consumption of Lee. She’s eating someone, quite literally bones and all. But it’s not this awful thing that she had envisioned. Because in her innocence she had only viewed it as this carnal, animalistic thing. Where in that moment with Lee, it’s done out of love. He’s giving himself to her as a last act. And she eats all of him because she wants him to be part of her, as if Lee will not forever live on inside of Maren.
The idea of “bones and all” isn’t just about the act of eating. It’s a riff on the idea of taking the good with the bad. Both Maren and Lee had a lot of baggage. Baggage that almost ruined their blossoming relationship. Lee didn’t want to open up to Maren. And Maren wasn’t sure she could accept who and what they were. These are the bones that get in the way. This is the bad stuff anyone can get caught up in and overwhelmed by. I’m not good enough. No one will love me. I’m a bad person. etc. etc. The ability to come to terms with those thoughts is life changing. It doesn’t matter if they’re true or not. There’s always some bad. There’s always some bone. Once you move past that, you can embrace the rest. So Maren eating Lee represents all of that. That she’s reached a point of accepting everything that’s happened. And now she can move on to the next chapter. Even though Lee won’t be there—he will be, you know?
Which is, I’d argue, the meaning of the last moments where we see Maren and Lee back on the hill in Nevada. That was the place they fully opened up to one another. Where they decided to love and accept being loved. That moment is something Maren will now carry on with her. Having had that, she’ll hopefully have a different outcome than Sully and her mom. She can find a way to live a life as a person. With all the good and bad that comes with it.
In the book, Maren doesn’t really mourn Lee’s passing. She works in a library and kind of gleefully eats someone. Which I think supports the reading that Movie Maren will move on with her life. Though maybe in a more thoughtful and humanistic way than Novel Maren.
But I do think some people might argue the ending of Bones and All is more negative than I argued in the above section. As in, Maren decides not to live. The basis for this would be that after she eats Lee, we never see Maren again in “real time”. Just on the hill, in a kind of dream-like shot. Someone might argue this is evidence Maren has “reunited” with Lee. And what we’re seeing is the romanticized afterlife where they’re together forever.
Now, I don’t believe that’s the case. I think the Bones and All is crafted well enough that they’d give more foreshadowing if that was the direction they wanted to go. From what I saw, the signs pointed more towards a “glass half full” reading then a “glass is totally empty”. That’s why the movie is called Bones and All. Because you learn to live with the bad because the “all” is so much greater. If Maren couldn’t do that, it would, I think, defeat the purpose of her journey.
What are your thoughts?
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