I’d like to talk to you about To the Bone, a movie which was released on Netflix this July. To the Bone deals with eating disorders (“EDs”) and has caused quite a stir across social media ever since its trailer was released.
Though I won’t go into much detail in this article, note that there will be a few spoilers ahead. You should also note that To the Bone contains potential triggers — as do the heated responses to it on the social media. So check in with yourself regularly, as I ended up needing to do, if you decide to watch the film and participate in those debates afterwards.
To the Bone stars Hollywood actress Lily Collins. Collins, herself having struggled with an ED in her teens, plays Ellen, a 20-year-old woman with anorexia. After not making progress with yet another inpatient program, Ellen comes home once again to her stepmother Susan (Carrie Preston) and younger sister Kelly (Liana Liberato). Of Ellen’s original family, we also see her biological mother, Judy (Lili Taylor) later during a family meeting in an inpatient setting, but not her father, who remains mysteriously busy and absent.
The drama starts to unfold after Ellen is encouraged to go see Dr. Beckham, a controversial specialist played by Keanu Reeves — yes, you read that right, Keanu Reeves! She eventually joins Dr. Beckham’s residential treatment program, meeting and forming relationships with some of the other patients there, in particular with a young man named Luke (Alex Sharp).
Not to give too much away, To the Bone is about how Ellen tries to handle a series of ups and downs in her work in the program, and simultaneously in her old and new personal relationships, including a potential romantic one. To the Bone ends on a vaguely hopeful note, the possibility that something may be different this time, that Ellen may stick with the treatment and get better; that she may recover.
To the Bone is engaging and entertaining. I also found myself caring for the lead and several other characters. The background story of the movie is of interest in itself: First consider the difficult task the filmmaker, Marti Noxon, faced, when she set out to create and share with viewers a film based on her own struggles and imbued with her own private pain. Collins faced something similar, playing a role that must have brought back some strong feelings — that of her own experiences with EDs. Aside from entertainment, the movie also does a decent job of educating the public about some of the behaviors associated with EDs, such as calorie-counting, purging, exercise obsession, etc.
Having said that, it might surprise you that I give To the Bone a very qualified recommendation. Why? Because the movie is not without its shortcomings.
To the Bone has been criticized on several fronts, for instance that itis not representative enough. EDs come in a variety of forms, and the people affected by them are of all colors and races, shapes and weights, and come from all walks of life. In other words, there is more to EDs than anorexia, and anorexia itself is also not limited to middle- or upper-class thin white girls either.