This week Netflix released an original movie, To the Bone. I watched a trailer for it last week and instantly decided I wanted to watch it. To the Bone is directed by Marti Noxon and it’s about a twenty year old woman, Ellen (played by Lily Collins) as she struggles with anorexia nervosa.
Before I go into what I thought about the movie, I wanted to put out a huge disclaimer. I do not personally have an ED (eating disorder) or know anyone close to me who has one. I am not knowledgeable on the subject nor do I claim to be. I truly went into this just trying to learn and understand the characters’ experiences during the movie. Just wanted a short disclaimer as I am reviewing this from a perspective that is completely on the outside of things.
Anyway, onward! There was a lot I liked about the movie. For instance, I loved Lily Collins as Ellen. I thought she did an amazing job in the role and I felt really immersed in her character. I’ve heard some critics say that she felt “too beautiful” and may give some the wrong idea by glamorizing or idealizing an eating disorder. I have to say that I did not have this same reaction. I mean, I agree, she is very beautiful. However, for me, I still felt haunted by her appearance and found it frankly disturbing to watch her at her lowest weights. I also thought it is important to note that Lily Collins has suffered with anorexia previously in her life and I thought she brought a lot of that emotion to the role.
I also liked the humor that played throughout the movie. I know, comedy in a movie that centers around eating disorders may seem a little misplaced; however, it worked great here. The movie is full with sarcasm and bitter dialogue that just propel the movie forward. I think the humor is what helps take it out of just feeling like a Lifetime movie. Instead, it feels more mature, grown up, dark, realistic. It definitely works in favor of To the Bone.
Perhaps, my favorite part of the movie was the fact that there was that there wasn’t a clear cut explanation for why Ellen (later christened Eli) became anorexic. It’s clear she has issues on both sides of her family (her mother and her notably absent father) and they have issues with one another (see: her mother and stepmother) and I think it’s safe to say that her half-sister (although, clearly caring and invested in Ellen’s health) also has some hard feelings toward her. Ellen also is clearly dealing with the emotional aftermath of a horrible incident after she publishes some of her artwork on Tumblr. Of course, these are just some of the most obvious problems Ellen faces; however, none of these are necessarily the cause. Yes, they contribute, but To the Bone doesn’t try to make an easy diagnosis regarding why Ellen is anorexic, because the truth is, there is no one, easy answer.
Lastly, I really thought the ending was well done (note: spoilers in this paragraph.) The ending did not seem unrealistic or like it was a fairytale ending. It felt very true to life. In the end, Ellen/Eli wasn’t miraculously cured. She wasn’t completely healthy living her own life. She didn’t begin to date Luke. She wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t your happily ever after. What you did get though was an ending where Ellen/Eli is finally willing to get better and fight for her life. She tells her half-sister and step-mom that she’s going to be okay, and although we’ve heard her say this several times throughout the movie, it’s the first time the audience is inclined to believe her. I think if things had been tied up too nicely at the end, it would take away from the movie’s integrity. It’s meant to show that sometimes, just deciding to finally fight for yourself, IS enough of a happy ending. In this case, it certainly felt like it to me.
On to what I did not like about the movie. I felt that almost all the secondary characters were completely flat. I felt like we had these characters who lived in the Threshold house and we only got like one or two traits/characteristics about themselves and that was completely it. It all felt so flat to me and didn’t work. I kind of felt the same with her family. It felt like too many characters and not enough time to really delve in and flesh some of the characters out. So while Ellen felt well rounded everyone else just lacked in comparison.
Another thing I did not like about the movie was Luke’s entire plot line. While I felt that he had the potential to be a well rounded character and a foil to Ellen’s, instead it went off slightly onto another path. When he became the love interest, I had to roll my eyes. I felt like it was just too cliche for me. Instead of him just being her friend and supporting her, it had to turn romantic. Plus, it felt so forced between them, I just didn’t feel the chemistry there and it all just felt so off place. I thought a friendship between them would have been much more powerful and less cliche.
Overall, I did enjoy To the Bone. There was a lot I liked about the movie and if you feel like you’re on the same wavelength as me, I’d go as far as to say you’d enjoy the movie too. However, in this case, my dislikes felt intricate to the plot and made the entire story just feel like it lacked depth.
For above reasons, I gave it a C+ or a 3/5.