To The Bone stars Lily Collins as Ellen, who is going through the battle of her life with Anorexia, until the day she meets Dr. William Beckham (Keanu Reeves) who teaches her that the way to get better and overcome her illness is not just about eating, it’s about loving and embracing life.
So, Is It Any Good?
Ellen (Collins) has been battling Anorexia for a long time and after countless attempts at treatment clinics trying to beat the illness to no avail her family’s last-ditch effort sees her go into an inpatient program run by Dr. Beckham (Reeves). It’s there that Ellen is confronted by not just herself, but also the lives of the other patients who are also going through similar circumstances. While going through the program, each day Ellen is confronted by two options, eat or die.
“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
To The Bone perfectly encapsulates this famous Star Wars quote, with how a family reacts to a loved one who is going through a mental health disorder. In fact, the film shows how each family member deals with it differently, while still having the same negative outcome. People will talk at you, rather than to you. This is fear.
The group therapy sessions between Dr. Beckham and Ellen’s immediate family open up old wounds that really have nothing to do with Ellen’s situation. All the family seems to care about is their own selfish needs and how Ellen is a burden to their life. Ellen’s stepsister Kelly (Liana Liberato) loves her dearly but also has some animosity towards her because of her Anorexia, as it also impacts her school and social life. Her stepmother Susan (Carrie Preston) offers no motherly love to Ellen and instead has a mind over matter mentality. Where instead of offering an ear to Ellen to help her, fills her life with doctors and food in the hope that she will just snap out of it. Her passive aggressive understanding of what Ellen is going through leads to many “this is your fault” conversations. This is anger.
While Ellen listens to each and every one of her family members, you can’t help but see how much she is being confronted by an onslaught of emotion. That can trigger low self-esteem in even the most confident person. Helplessness often has an evil sibling associated with it, this is self-hate.
Isolation is a major part of this film. People who don’t understand what Ellen is going through have a tendency to project their fear, anger and hate onto her because of her illness. However, what it does is give you an idea of what it is like to go through some parts of life that people may not agree with or even understand. Help is not talking at someone or telling them how to do it. Help is listening, caring, and loving. Even though the film touches on aspects of Ellen’s family caring, it is always has a negative undertone. Which does nothing but add more pressure and helplessness to Ellen’s life. This is suffering.
Controversy from the films subject matter aside, there is a lot to love and take away from watching To The Bone. While others may see this film as glorifying and triggering other people’s battles with mental health, deep down it’s more than that. What i loved about it was the simple fact that a little bit of love and hope can go a long way in making even the smallest changes in life.
TO THE BONE streams on Netflix July 14th.