A young woman with anorexia is helped by an unconventional doctor to overcome her illness.
Ellen (Lily Collins) is a 20 year old woman who has been struggling with anorexia nervosa for some time. In between various family dramas, she is taken to see the unorthodox Dr. Beckham (Keanu Reeves), who accepts Ellen into his residential programme which uses unconventional practises to try and help people get better. There she meets a handful of people with similar conditions to herself, and although reluctant, realises that there is hope after all.
To The Bone is one of the latest original films to come from Netflix, and is one that has received a ton of publicity thanks to the controversy surrounding it’s subject matter. Given all the coverage it had before even being released, I decided to jump on it straightaway, and I have to be honest, I thought it was an okay film, although it did have it’s faults.
Performances here were all good, but there was nothing that was very memorable from my point of view. Apart of Lily Collins’ part, the line-up had a very ensemble-y feel to it. Nobody really stood out in any way for me. As the one real lead character though, Collins did a good job I thought of portraying Ellen. There was nothing overly dramatic about her performance, which I thought was really effective in showing that she didn’t feel like her condition was a big deal. I also like the amount of wit she gave Ellen, as this added some lighter moments to what really is a very heavy story when you look deeper.
With regards to story, there isn’t a huge ground-breaking narrative being told, but I guess it’s something that hasn’t really been looked upon with 21st century eyes in the world of film, so in that sense it is still quite fresh. I liked how it showed the effect Ellen’s illness was having on her whole family, with the scenes shared between Collins and Liana Liberato, who played Ellen’s sister Kelly, being the most impactful due to the way the relationship was written. I think in all fairness though, this is one of those films that serves as more of a character study than anything else, which is where I think it suffers one of it’s biggest downfalls, because while the character of Ellen is not one that’s really been explored before in this way, she just wasn’t quite interesting enough for me to struggle to pull myself away from the film.
To The Bone has had a lot of attention since the first trailers came out, with a lot of people branding it a ‘controversial’ film. I’m not sure really that that is the right way to describe it – yes, it covers a sensitive issue, but surely you could say most films cover sensitive issues if you tried hard enough? I don’t want to sound dismissive of people’s concerns, but I do think that reactions such as the ones received by this film have the power to ruin cinema because they seem to label many new ideas and different storylines ‘controversial’. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to viewers discretion – if you think you can’t handle what a film is going to show you, simply do not watch it. Anyway, rant over and back to the matter in hand. Did I think this was controversial? Not really. Personally, I felt it presented eating disorders in a way that was very human, and one that could start a discussion for people, which I think is ultimately what you want to try and achieve with films such as this.
All in all, To The Bone was worth seeing, for the reason that it opens the every-mans’ eye to a sense of what is going on with matters such as those presented in the film. However, from a purely film-related perspective, I can’t say that I’d watch it again. It didn’t grab me in the way I’d hoped it would mainly because the characters felt a little under-done, especially in the case of Ellen, and for a film such as this, I think the characters are what make or break it. So, if you haven’t seen it, I would suggest watching To The Bone, but I would say don’t expect to be reaching for the replay button immediately after finishing it.