To the Bone offers food for thought about serious eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. The film follows a cynical young woman who has been in and out of rehab programs Ė but gets one last chance under the care of a doctor known for his unconventional treatment methods. This is not a documentary, but everything that happens seems quite real. Much of the credit for that goes to the writer/director and the leading lady who both have personal experience with eating disorders. Although thereís plenty of heavy drama here, the movie also includes a bit of humor and romance.
I applaud everyone connected with To the Bone for their courage in bringing attention to eating disorders in such a powerful way. However, this is not a film thatís easy to watch. I admit to closing my eyes during a couple of scenes.
Donít judge the girl who canít eat food
without feeling that sheís no good.
No matter how much weight sheís shed,
that feeling stays within her head.
Calories and how to burn them
consume her life. Now sheís a stem.
Worried family and harsh looks
do not end up as the best hooks.
Lily Collins plays this sad girl.
She comes across just like a pearl
whoís hiding in an oyster shell
afraid to emerge and be well.
But doc Keanu Reeves is here.
Will his treatment remove her fear?
To the Bone reveals all of this
in a raw movie not to miss.
Marni Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) wrote and directed To the Bone. She obviously drew on her own painful experience to tell the story of Ellen, portrayed by Lily Collins. I was completely surprised by Collinsí terrific performance here. I loved her as Snow White in the whimsical Mirror Mirror but had no idea about the depth of her acting talent. She draws us into her dreary world with a frail look that makes us worry about Ellen immediately. And she seals the deal with her soulful eyes and pessimistic attitude, which seem to hide Ellenís will to live. We soon learn about the guilt she feels concerning a tragic incident relating to her dark artistic efforts.
Together, Noxon and Collins made sure viewers would be watching something special. Keanu Reeves (John Wick 2) ably assists them with his gentle turn as William Beckham, a doctor who tries to help his patients understand their eating disorders. He uses a group home environment where the members earn privileges through a point system. They have group meetings, individual therapy, and family meetings.
Most of the filmís key scenes take place in the group home where we get to see patients at different stages of their treatment. This is where Ellen meets witty Luke (Tony winner Alex Sharp), the only male in residence. And, of course, she and Luke develop feelings for each other, but itís a rocky relationship, for sure.
In Ellenís case, most of her family has given up on her -- and we never even see her father. Real mom (Lili Taylor/The Conjuring) lives in a different town, so stepmom (Carrie Preston/The Good Wife) seems to be in charge. Ellenís stepsister (played beautifully by Lianna Liberato/The Last Sin Eater) is the only one very close to Ellen. Will this dysfunctional family finally come together to help her?
My poem above advises us not to judge Ellen, but To the Bone leaves us with the additional message not to judge her family either. Itís a very compassionate, non-judgmental film -- one that should have an important impact on people with eating disorders and on their loved ones.
(Released by Netflix and rated TV-MA.)
For more information about To the Bone, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.