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Netflix's To The Bone Movie Review

Updated on July 19, 2017
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When Netflix released its television series ''13 Reasons Why'' in March, it received varied reactions from its audience.

As someone who had previously read- and disliked -the book, it came as no surprise that I was less than impressed by the TV series also. So naturally, when Netflix announced their release of ''To The Bone'', the newest controversial movie aiming to shed light on the reality of eating disorders, I was somewhat apprehensive to say the least.

Synopsis

''To The Bone'' follows 20 year old Ellen (Lily Collins) through her journey with Anorexia Nervosa and sees her make the decision to confront her illness through a non-traditional means. Ellen is forced to face the reality of her eating disorder and the effects that it has had not only on her, but on her dysfunctional, but loving family as well. To do this she attends a group home led by Doctor William Beckham (Keanu Reeves) where she meets other youths struggling as much as she is.

Unlike ''13 Reasons Why'', the writer of ''To The Bone'' Marti Noxon, and main actress Lily Collins both have their own experiences with eating disorders as a result of dealing with eating disorders personally. This becomes very apparent within the movie as we are given an insightful, raw and authentic representation of each eating disorder and how these illnesses can manifest themselves in different individuals.

Character Growth

Initially our protagonist Ellen comes across as rude, sarcastic and blatantly ignorant to the feelings of those around her. Due this it is difficult to see her as a likable character let alone feel sympathy towards her for the situation she is in.

Although our opinions are led this way in the beginning, as the movie goes on we begin to see another side to Ellen and understand why she thinks and feels the way she does. This is an important part in the stepping stones of her recovery as she comes to terms with things that have gone wrong in her life and attempts to deal with the guilt she has been bottling up.

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Representation

A lot of the initial concerns people had surrounding ''To The Bone'' were that it would follow the story of a ''skinny white girl'' and therefore perpetuate the stereotypes and stigma surrounding eating disorders. Although Ellen fits this description, the movie dispels this stereotype through the other characters we meet in the group home who become as important to us as Ellen does.

Netflix has done an amazing job of showing that people regardless of their race, gender, weight, sexuality or background can suffer from eating disorders at any time in their lives.

A great example of this is Lucas who is a vital character in our story and seems to be the closest to recovery in comparison to his housemates. His optimistic and encouraging attitude comforts his friends through some of their lowest points of the film. We learn in due course of his previous dance career which was cut short due to an injury he sustained triggering his battle with Anorexia.


Does ''To The Bone'' Glorify Or Encourage Eating Disorders?

This is the question many people have been wondering and prior to watching the film I believed that ''To The Bone'' would become as damaging as ''13 Reasons Why'' due to potentially triggering content. I am relieved to say that this is not the case with ''To The Bone'' at all.

From the perspective of someone who is struggling, but recovering from an eating disorder I believe that ''To The Bone'' was in no way triggering whatsoever, nor was it detrimental to my recovery process. Unlike ''13 Reasons Why'' there is no graphic content or violent scenes which could cause some viewers distress. If anything, ''To The Bone'' is an eyeopening account of the damages eating disorders can cause.

Whilst Ellen is severely malnourished and emaciated, we don't ever get the impression that she feels like ''thin is beautiful'' or wants to encourage others to follow her unhealthy behaviour.

There are many scenes that make this abundantly clear, from her step-sister pointing out that Ellen ''looks like crap'' to her step-mother asking if she finds her physical appearance beautiful. Ellen admits repeatedly that she doesn't find herself attractive and even when this is not specifically said the viewer still gets this impression due to Ellen's clothing choices. Throughout the entire film we are shown Ellen in over-sized, unattractive clothing as an attempt to hide her body and how drastically thin she is becoming.

Aside from this we are shown the side of eating disorders that are rarely covered in the media, such as the secretive and dishonest behaviors adopted by sufferers. Some scenes are shocking but in a way that shows viewers the true severity of eating disorders and their effects for example; spinal bruising due to over-exercise and excessive hair growth as the body attempts to keep itself warm.

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''To The Bone'' is a believable and accurate account of what those struggling with with eating disorders will face. Above all the movie highlights the fact that no one is to blame for an eating disorder which contrasts from the revenge fueled themes of ''13 Reasons Why.'' Ultimately recovery is down to the individual and how much they want to change and get better.

Prior to Ellen's final attempt at recovery, we are told that she had previously been an inpatient multiple times and yet was still showing no signs of getting better much to the distress and frustration of her family.

Much like real life scenarios, the film shows recovery is not a linear or easy process. It doesn't always work on the first, second or even third attempt because everyone is different but that doesn't mean they should be given up on.

If you have watched or are planning to watch ''To The Bone'' then I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

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