Netflix's "To The Bone"

Problems with To the Bone

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On January 22, Netflix released something that would make history.  To The Bone, a movie about a young girl with anorexia nervosa, is the first film about eating disorders that didn’t go straight to DVD.  The ability to stream it on Netflix means millions of people have access to this little world that is inhabited by so few in the grander scheme.

The film is quite predictable: the main character Ellen is a young white woman from a rich, divorced family with anorexia nervosa (the absolute stereotype for anorexics).  She’s been in and out of treatment for years and nothing has worked. She sees a doctor who lets her know that he will not treat her unless she is willing to go inpatient.  Her family eagerly sends her to a group home, hoping this attempt at recovery will be her last.

Ellen arrives at the group home and meets a group of friends: an anorexic guy who attempts to flirt with her from the beginning, a binge-eater, a couple bulimics, and an anorexic girl who is being fed through a tube.  The film is littered with references to rituals—rituals that only someone with an eating disorder could truly understand.  It’s a light film.  Not a whole lot goes on.

It’s gotten mixed reviews from people within the ED community and outside, but I had a lot of problems with it.

First of all, nothing is thoroughly explained.  There is a scene on Ellen’s first night in the group home where she shoots out a number when one of the other girls is inquiring about caloric content.  This upsets the girl so much that she can’t eat her dinner—instead, she throws herself onto the couch and sobs.

To someone with an ED or history of an ED, this makes complete sense.  However, I couldn’t help but feel that to an outsider, this just looks like a ridiculous overreaction.  There wasn’t enough context for someone without these experiences to be able to fully comprehend.

Another issue I had was with the boy practically trying to maul her the entire time.  The fuck was up with that?  As if this poor girl didn’t have enough problems trying to overcome the most difficult piece of her life, now we’re going to throw some dipshit male ballerina with a bad accent on her?

Overall, I just felt there were too many information gaps in the film.  I know they were trying to portray eating disorders as honest and not just informational, there needed to be some context provided to outsiders.  If the goal of the film is to create awareness around the issue, then it should have been explained in more depth.

My final and LARGEST issue with this movie was the fact that Lily Collins, the actress who plays Ellen, has a history of anorexia and she BECAME UNDERWEIGHT FOR THE FILM.  What the fuck?  I don’t care how long you’ve been recovered.  You cannot have a history of anorexia, get down to that weight again, and be okay.  No.  The actress put herself in danger—risked health problems returning, brain chemicals being thrown off balance again, and worse.  She could go into the weight loss completely lucid and intend to only lose weight for the film, and something can go off kilter in her mind and change everything.  Luckily, she put the weight back on after the film, but a relapse can easily happen months or years in the future.  To a recovering anorexic, this fact is incredibly discouraging and sad.

If you are recovering/recovered from an ED and want to watch this movie, I highly recommend against it.  I spent the night wandering around my neighborhood in a daze after watching it, and it honestly wasn’t that graphic.  Going down into that reality again is not something you want to do to yourself.


I’d say watch it if you’re an outsider, but honestly it doesn’t portray EDs well enough and might give off the wrong message.  Watch it if you really want to, but be warned that there are inconsistencies and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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