Flesh and Bone

Flesh and Bone is a film that gets under my skin. A doom laden sojourn into Southern Gothic; it’s beautiful, moving and macabre, and it passed almost unseen on its theatrical release in 1993.Dennis Quaid plays Arlis Sweeney, a vending machine stocker who travels the desolate plains of West Texas haunted by a childhood memory. One bad night, when he helped his father Roy (James Caan) commit burglary, culminating in the murder of a family, and leaving a crying baby as the only survivor.The torment Arlis has borne for thirty years is etched in his face, as he stoically avoids any emotional attachments; visiting the same towns, eating the same food, sleeping in the same beds and then starting all over again.His obsessive routine is disrupted one night, when he crosses paths with Kay Davies (Meg Ryan), a wayward young woman who’s running from a broken marriage. Kay joins him on the road and they soon become intimate. But just as they’re on the cusp of a future together, the sudden reappearance of a figure from his past, and a chance discovery, lead Arlis to a shattering realisation.Flesh and Bone is a poetic vision of loneliness and isolation, its stillness evoking the early films of Terrence Malick. The arid West Texas countryside rolls by, but these characters are running out of road. Every turn is taking them to the same place, a destination where lives turn on a pivot of fate and destiny.Amidst this tense, brooding atmosphere. James Caan and Dennis Quaid are terrific, as the evil father and conscience-stricken son. A young Gwyneth Paltrow shines as a heartless grifter. Fresh from Sleepless in Seattle Meg Ryan is seriously sultry, as a southern girl who’s been battered, but not broken by life.Complete with Texas accent Meg bares her soul, especially during the scene where she walks alone through the miles of empty fields surrounding her abandoned family home. It’s a truly cinematic sequence, and it serves as a perfect prelude to Flesh and Bone‘s heart-rending conclusion.To date, Flesh and Bone is Steve Kloves’ last film as a director. It remains one of the great overlooked films of the 1990s, and over twenty five years after its release it still haunts me every time I watch it. It’s exceptional.

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14 Comments

Filed under Retrospective, Review

14 responses to “Flesh and Bone

  1. I really do have to see this.

  2. You have to be strong to watch this. Just a couple of minor tweaks could have made the movie more accessible. Because of the strengths that Paul has outlined here, I was left wishing that such a deserving project could have achieved its full potential.
    The scene with Meg and Dennis in the truck, driving along, remains one of my favorite movie moments of all time.

  3. I’d love to see this. Will have to search for it.

  4. Great post Paul 🙂 Though this can be said about Meg for any of her movies, her face in Flesh and Bone may just stand out as her most prettiest one, but it is hard for me to pinpoint why. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    • Oh I agree, I was very smitten by Meg in this period. In this film and Prelude to a Kiss she was so radiant with that amazing main of tusselled hair framing her beautiful face.

  5. Michael

    Wonderful post, Paul. This is a gem of a film. I haven’t seen it since back in the day, so there’s much I don’t even remember. I definitely need to revisit it soon.

    BTW, though you might dig my latest on Michelle:
    https://wordsseemoutofplace.blogspot.com/2019/06/thirty-years-of-loving-michelle.html

  6. This film was an opportunity for a frenetic expansion in Meg Ryan’s career, but most fans underrated what she would provides about their (new*) acting proposals, widening a range of diversities for her audiences. Attempting to ran out about their somewhat stereotypical image, due for certain own fans misunderstood facts, involuntarily, they were spoiling Meg Ryan’s career and their reliable personality.
    *This one meaned about Meg Ryan’s outstereotyped roles weren’t unprecedented cuz in late 80’s Meg already explored alternative roles.

  7. This sounds a bit grim, but also fascinating. Would love to see Meg R. in this role, just to experience more of her acting talents.

    • Flesh and Bone is bleak and I’m loathe to recommend it. If you’re a fan of Meg it’s worth watching. She’s great which makes the film all the more heartbreaking.

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