Marti Noxon’s film To The Bone is about a young woman, played by Lily Collins, who suffers severely from anorexia and is admitted to an unorthodox treatment centre led by a strange doctor played by Keanu Reeves. The film, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January, was the focus point of controversy after the trailer dropped. Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook users flocked to accuse the film of glamorization and fetishization. It’s worth mentioning that the film’s writer and director as well as its main actor have both suffered from anorexia nervosa themselves and have openly expressed how they aimed to create a film that was informative and a clear depiction of the harrowing effects of eating disorder emotionally and physically, not only on oneself but also to those around you – particularly one’s family.
To The Bone is not an exceptional, groundbreaking cinematic study of anorexia, but it is still noteworthy. The film deals with the subject matter in the best way it can. To be frank, there is no way to realistically showcase anorexia without disturbing audiences or triggering sufferers. To The Bone doesn’t gloss over the subject, it definitely does not glamorize the disorder in any way. The film is upfront and real with its depiction, with Lily Collins’ commendable performance helping portray a realistic representation of the eating disorder. Despite the cliché and almost eyeroll inducing treatment methods that the characters go through – which are necessary for entertainment purposes, otherwise this film would just be a an hour and three-quarters of distress – the film is truly authentic and real.
It’s hard to say that this film was enjoyable, but that is in no way a demerit to the film as it isn’t meant to be enjoyed. The film, however, is funny when it needs to be. Lily Collins’ character is rather tiresome, a sharp-tongued, sarcastic and troubled girl who is rude and judgemental of everyone she meets, even ones who she would naturally feel empathy for. However, Collins’ does deliver lines from a clever screenplay that makes this film feel less of a Lifetime TV movie and more of a sincere character study.
To The Bone appears to have the potential to be excellent. The first bulk of the film is entertaining yet harshly authentic, paired with strong performances from an array of young actors. Yet, in the last act, it plummets into a bizarre and entirely uninspiring show. In what should be a climactic and heartwarming sequence, the film instead depicts Lily Collins’ Ellen/Eli being bottle-fed milk by her often-absent mother just before she is pictured in a dazed state in the Arizonan desert as multiple versions of herself appear in the trees. Supposedly this is the “revelation” that spurs her to commit to recovery, however, there is nothing inspiring or reassuring said after this, instead an abrupt and completely unsatisfying end.
On the whole, To The Bone is worth watching. It is one of the most sincere and authentic portrayals of eating disorders, frankly of all time. In terms of storytelling and structure, it falls flat.
To The Bone result: B