Review of "To the Bone"
Note: This review contains spoilers.
If you have been on the Internet at all in the last month, you have probably seen at least one article about the new movie available on Netflix, “To the Bone”.
“To the Bone” is about an unruly 20-year-old girl named “Ellen” who suffers from anorexia. She agrees to stay inpatient in a group home for youth who are trying to beat their eating disorders. There have been many articles written about this movie since before it was even released on Netflix. Most of the reviews I have read were not supporting of the movie. Many writers claimed that it glamorizes eating disorders. Many were also concerned that the movie would cause those in recovery to relapse. As someone who has personally gone through an eating disorder, I watched this movie with extreme caution. The content of the movie can be triggering, and for that reason, I cannot recommend that everyone who has suffered from an eating disorder view it. If you believe that you could be triggered into a relapse, please avoid the content.
That being said, rather than writing an article about everything that the movie got wrong (which in my opinion is overplayed), I am going to instead write an article about the things that I believe the movie got right. I will argue why I, as an eating disorder survivor, believe that the movie accurately portrayed a character with an eating disorder.
The first thing I want to mention to anyone who says that the movie purposely glamorizes eating disorders is that there is a trigger warning at the beginning of the movie. The movie creators clearly acknowledge that the content can be triggering and want people to watch with caution. The movie was also created by people who have gone through eating disorders. Lily Collins, who plays the main character Ellen, had an eating disorder when she was younger. The creators have said many times in interviews that their goal was to bring awareness to eating disorders, not glamorize them.
The movie is also extremely inclusive of many different types of eating disorders. The eating disorders portrayed most often in the media are anorexia and bulimia. “To the Bone” did a great job at including more than just those disorders. For instance, there is a character in the movie who clearly suffers from binge eating disorder, an eating disorder that is often left out of the conversation.
One thing I loved about the movie is that it provided very realistic ideals on how recovery works. I love the fact that Ellen was not just immediately cured after going to a treatment center. In fact, she went to many treatment centers and still struggled with the illness after leaving. Keanu Reeves plays the non-traditional Dr. Beckham, who does not help his patients recover from eating disorders in a typical way. He makes some very good points to Ellen throughout the movie. He makes it very clear to Ellen that recovery depends on her. She is not going to get better unless she wants to and tries to. Often recovery is portrayed to be this miraculous thing that happens very easily as soon as a patient receives treatment. Anyone who has actually had to recover from a mental illness knows that this is not the case. I personally love how realistically the movie portrays how hard it is to actually recover from an eating disorder, and that the movie makes it clear that recovery requires the patient to be 100% ready and willing to change. No one else can save you. You can have people help you and give you guidance, but at the end of the day, you have to save yourself.
The movie also discusses very real side effects and consequences of eating disorders. For instance, when Ellen gets assessed by Dr. Beckham, he notes that she has extra hair growing on her arms to help her body stay warm because she is so thin. The characters also briefly mention that eating disorders can halt menstruation. There is also a character in the movie who is pregnant and dealing with an eating disorder, another story line that is rarely discussed when mentioning eating disorders.
In conclusion, I am personally very appreciative that this movie exists. I am also happy that it is garnering attention. “To the Bone” has started a conversation that is very much needed. As previously mentioned, if you have ever gone through an eating disorder, I ask you to think cautiously before watching this movie, as it can be triggering.
For those of you suffering from an eating disorder, help is available. You can contact the National Eating Disorder Association at the phone number: (800) 931-2237
You can also chat with them online through their Click-to-Chat program at their website: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline
Be happy being you,