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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