Religion, family ties and violent crime uneasily mix together in Eat Your Bones‘ traveller tale. Here director Jean-Charles Hue returns to the world of the Yeniche Travellers, a group who he documented back in 2010’s The Lord’s Ride. Reusing many of the nonprofessional actors from the group he now weaves a tale about the young men who are caught in between a reformed life dedicated to the church and the turbulent, fierce and exciting ways of the past. The question isn’t really whether crime and religion can coexist but rather what happens to an individual, to a family, to a group when their world changes.
The decision to cast real members of the traveling group proves here to be a wise one. On paper filling your film with nonprofessional actors doesn’t sound like the safest idea, but not only does it add to the realistic and gritty tone, but they all convince on the screen and Frédéric Dorkel in particular really impresses. He plays the volatile older brother who’s fresh out of a fifteen year stint in prison for murdering a cop and he provides the film with the vast majority of its suspension and depth. It’s around him that the film’s themes of repentance, change and chaos hang and his ability to channel both a pained stoicism and the violence of a caged tiger enable the rest of the film to resonate so strongly.
The film isn’t without its flaws, the principal one being that it could benefit from a tighter edit. The latter half of the film works well as a taut thriller but the first half, whilst always being able to hold my attention, does drag just a little. Now this may not seem too bad in the grand scheme of things, and it’s true that the positives far outweigh the negatives here, but numerous scenes slightly outweigh their welcome and its frustrating to see because they are holding back the film from being the slick and well oiled machine it could be. There is nothing wrong with the performances and the heart of the film, and when it gets going it brings a constantly simmering sense of threat which pervades the whole film and which energises the thrilling car chase scenes, but it’s not quite the complete package it should be.
That having been said I thoroughly recommend Eat Your Bones; it provides us with what seems to be an informed insight into the Yeniche Travellers and also delivers an exciting thriller that’s intelligently constructed and which really grips the viewer when it aims to. Yes it could be tightened up in places, and yes the slack does harm the film overall, but there’s a lot here that works really well and is deserving of high praise.
What is the film’s greatest strength? It may well be Frédéric Dorkel‘s perfomance.
Its greatest weakness? The first half needs to be edited down.
Would I see it again? Yes, I really enjoyed this one.
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