On July 14th, critically acclaimed Sundance selection To The Bone was released on Netflix, and in limited locations nationwide. I had been interested in seeing this film since hearing about it at Sundance, and I was highly interested in how this film would tackle the controversial topic of Anorexia. Never having had an eating disorder myself, I did some undergrad research on eating disorders and their causes- usually rooted in my fascination with the subject of body image and the fashion industry. Not unlike the show 13 Reasons Why, To the Bone aims to start a difficult conversation about a difficult subject.
Based on the experience of director Marti Noxon’s battle with Anorexia in her teens and early twenties, To The Bone gives us insight into the psyche and everyday life of a young woman named Ellen (Lily Collins). What adds poignancy to this film is the fact that lead Lily Collins has also previously suffered from Anorexia, and had covered it in her recently published memoir Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me. Many times in film and television, eating disorders are glamorized or used as the butt of jokes (See below). Very rarely do filmmakers dive into the psychosis behind them and their severity.
After a string of hospital visits and defiance in a desperate attempt, Ellen’s stepmother Susan (Carrie Preston) pulls some strings to place Ellen in an exclusive group home, lead by the radical Dr. William Beckham (Keanu Reeves).
What this film excels in is the treatment of Anorexia as an addiction and mental health disorder. The attention to detail is astounding and seeing Ellen’s thought process is refreshing. Throughout the film, we see what Ellen is going through, and her relationship with food and her body. She knows the exact calorie counts of many food items, and knows how many calories she’ll burn when performing an exercise. She even used the art of distraction while eating so the person she’s with doesn’t notice the lack of consumption. This is evident at the beginning of the film. Another notable aspect portrayed in the film is the different types of people at the group home. It’s not always the skinny white girl that has an eating disorder, it’s something that plagues all kind of bodies types, ethnic backgrounds, and even men- as displayed by the near-recovered Luke (Alex Sharp), an ex-ballet dancer.
While this film has an upbeat ending, it does start an important dialogue about eating disorders. With today’s online Pro-Ana culture, accurately portraying eating disorders is like navigating a mine field. Prior to production, Marti Noxon and Lily Collins consulted medical professionals and groups in order to create a sensitive and non-sensationalized view of Anorexia. Ellen doesn’t seem to want to be thinner for the sake of being pretty- at least that’s not what is shown. Marti Noxon’s hopes are that the film will encourage sufferers to get the help they need- and I hope that will be the case.
ADRIANA, THE CINEMA SOLOIST