|Directed by||Marti Noxon|
|Starring||Lily Collins, Carrie Preston,Lili Taylor, Keanu Reeves|
|Released on||January 22, 2017 (Sundance), July 14, 2017 (Netflix)|
To The Bone is a movie about eating disorders, mainly, anorexia. That in itself is uncharted territory, sure there have been a few movies revolving around anorexia before but most of them aren’t good. They seem to veer off course, don’t do reality justice or end up romanticizing a serious illness.
Ellen (Lily Collins) plays a 20-year old anorexic woman with a defiant and sassy (sort of) attitude. She’s never portrayed as passive or weak. She may not have an ounce of fat on her, but she’s still got her spirit (kinda). She’s kicked out of an in-patient program for her “defiant attitude” and goes to stay with her step-mum. From the first few scenes itself, we can deduce that Ellen isn’t the easy kind. She’s not going to get cured from a simple support group or maybe a therapist.
Ellen’s past is riddled with what seems just the ‘right’ amount of pain. That pain manifests eventually as an eating disorder. But it also makes the film feel too scripted. Don’t get me wrong, Marti Noxon, the writer and director is brilliant, but there are definitely flaws in the movie.
An absent mother and father seems to be the root cause for Ellen’s disorder. Her mum came out as gay when Ellen was a child and abandoned her to give live with a partner. Her dad is never around, so it’s an all-round terrible situation. But, Ellen’s stepmother is definitely a positive figure in her life. She tries her best. She’s the one who gets Ellen a spot at ‘Threshold’, a treatment center run by a Dr. Beckham (Keanu Reeves) who has supposedly unconventional methods and is known to work miracles. Ellen finally agrees to go and that’s where the film begins.
We never actually see Dr. Beckham’s unconventional methods (does making your patients dance under a waterfall count?) and there isn’t really any big insight into the minds of anorexics or any advice to anyone suffering from it. The plot just sort of derails as the movie goes on.
At Threshold, Beckham gives some tough love advice to Ellen, telling her, to tell her brain to ‘fuck off’. That seems to help a bit, she’s the straight forward kind. We also learn that Ellen is an artist and one of her admirers took inspiration from her art to kill herself. The extent of the damage of that or Ellen’s reaction to it isn’t discussed much and she doesn’t seem to be too affected, which, is strange to say the least.
There is a sub-plot where Ellen and a boy, Luke (Alex Sharp) at the Threshold house seem to be romantically involved, but it’s awkward and weird. Luke is chatty and insists on Ellen trying a lot of things. There’s also a questionably consensual kiss involved. It’s all very weird and it just sort of floats around seemingly separated from the actual plot.
Ellen eventually loses it and goes back to her actual mum, where there is a very strange feeding bottle scene. She has some sort of enlightening after that and goes back to Threshold again. Which is where I was like, what? What actually happened? Who knows.
The ending is abrupt and feels like they just got bored?
I can admire that the movie doesn’t let the girl fall in love with a boy and that just magically makes everything better, because I’ve seen that and it’s stupid. Ellen seems to come to terms with her disorder more or less on her own and chooses to become better herself. I can appreciate that. The movie is realistic at times, but it’s also completely off at others.
To The Bone has also been accused of romanticizing eating disorders, but I honestly think they’ve done quite a good job of not doing so. I mean, when something ends up in a movie, it naturally feels a bit romanticized but the people who are crying out seem to be part of the ‘nobody gets what we’re feeling!’ clique, which I can empathize with, but that doesn’t make it a terrible film.
It is difficult to show something like anorexia in a movie. When being thin is coveted, considered beautiful and majority of women in the film industry are skinny, talking about anorexia is hard. The support for it is minimal because people just don’t want to admit that it’s caused by society itself. The need to be skinny is so predominant that admitting that there’s something very wrong is not easy. So, props to To The Bone for trying its best to shed some light.