Maren’s hunger is not just for human flesh but also to belong. When she travels to a different state and meets Lee (Timothee Chalamet), another eater, and feeds with him, she is finally not alone. Maren appears the most comfortable in their meeting and subsequent relationship, no longer punishing herself for her desires, instead leaning into them with an almost unbecoming unabashedness. The camera holds on the two often as they feed instead of their victims, further attempting to humanize them with the camera and, therefore, through the human eye. Guadagnino reminds us of what these two characters represent: they aren’t killing for the sake of killing but rather doing so because they don’t know what else to do. It’s because of Lee, who not only doesn’t appear guilty for his hunger but appears comfortable with his sexuality as well, that Maren learns to embrace these aspects in herself.
Maren’s intrinsic need for connection stems from her loneliness as a queer Black woman, and she doesn’t find a remedy to this loneliness until she finds someone else who has faced similar ostracization. Though Lee is white, he is all things that don’t mesh well with the American Midwest in the 1980s: he likes rock music, he’s unapologetic in his willingness to not belong, and he also appears to be queer. It isn’t until these two find each other that Maren becomes comfortable within herself, Lee leading the way into some cannibalistic ritual fuelled absolution. His willingness to feed upon human flesh mirrors his willingness to be different, unafraid of the boundaries that society wishes to place upon him.
While their positions differ solely based on their race, that doesn’t diminish Lee’s position as someone who can guide Maren into a world of hope and belonging. Before meeting Lee, Maren has just been abandoned by her father (André Holland) and moves through the film’s frames like a ghost, wandering aimlessly. At the beginning of her journey, she meets Sully, an older feeder who attempts to show her the ways of their people, but she finds no connection with him, as his view of the world is fractured from a lifetime of loneliness. Lee, however, immediately connects with her. The two instantly recognize something within each other, almost as if a radar has gone off in their minds once they meet. The land and the world they inhabit doesn’t feel big enough for them despite its vastness, but perhaps their hearts hold enough space for each other.