To The Bone: Netflix’s film on anorexia is a must-watch

Posted on 15 July, 2017 by Team Wishberry

It is in the small things we see it: Anne Sexton


To The Bone charts the journey of Ellen, a 20-year-old college dropout/ artist who has been dealt a bad hand — her life hasn’t been exactly smooth-sailing, and while that may have triggered her art, it also manages to trigger anorexia. She is one of the ‘rexies’. However, she insists that she is more and in doing so, she puts up a facade of grunge make-up, sassy-bordering-on-rude one-liners, a deep distrust of everyone, including her biological mother, her step-mother, her biological mother’s partner and the world in general (the exception here is her step-sister, whom Ellen loves). When we meet Ellen in the film, she is on the verge of causing serious damage to herself and those who love her because of her ‘condition’. In comes, a doctor with a ‘radical’ approach to addressing eating disorders (Keanu Reeves) and that changes the course of Ellen’s life.


Directed by Marti Noxon and starring Lily Collins — both have talked about their struggles with eating disorders in the past — To The Bone is a difficult film to watch, yet extremely relatable.


To The Bone opened at Sundance and has already received rave reviews. However, it has also attracted its fair share of criticism from eating disorder specialists who feel that, to a certain extent, the film almost glorifies anorexia and it has also been accused of portraying anorexia as a white-woman specific problem. One can see the points from where these observations may arise — Lily Collins’ character, at some point, might appear inspirational to people who might view her as a mascot for those who are ‘misunderstood’. But, the hope here is that while watching the film, the same people see her character’s despondency, her failure to realise what is good for her, her rejection of a support system that is going all out to save and finally, her realisation that life can be ‘sh@@ty’, but the best way to fight it, is to go out ‘swingin’.


The title of this review is not an indicator of the brilliance of Netflix’s To The Bone as a cinematic exercise. It is, however, a film that talks about something that we in India still cannot wrap our heads around — mental illness. Following is the disclaimer that shows up at the beginning of the film:


This film was created by and with individuals who have struggled with eating disorders, and it includes realistic depictions that may be challenging for some viewers.

And it is for this directive alone that India needs a film like To The Bone and a platform like Netflix. While, authorities in India (read the Censor Board), create a hullabaloo over issues such a film being too “lady-oriented” or a Nobel Laureate (Amartya Sen) using the word “cow”, the ‘West’, the influencer of all things ‘Evil’, has better things to do — like making cinema that sparks dialogue!

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