Last night I watched on Netflix a film called To The Bone which recently came out this July (2017). I had seen the trailer for it and couldn’t wait to watch it. Something about watching another fellow anorexic in recovery that just makes me feel empowered and validated. The main character Ellen (Eli) is played by actress Lily Collins who has been honest about her own struggles with an eating disorder growing up. This role was close to Lily and I think it definitely helped Lily get in the mindset to make the character of Ellen honest and real to its audience.
I have read many of different reviews from critics. Some applauding the film for finally talking about something that is usually shunned in society attached with a negative stigma. Others did not have a lot of positive things to say. Some critics felt as though the film glamorized the eating disorder by showing someone who was thin and was looked after by friends and family. I could not disagree with this more! Ellen is not glamorized, she looks completely miserable, thin, and depressed. Between her bones protruding, her face sunken in, and dark black circles under her eyes she is the farthest thing from glamorized. Regardless of her appearance, in the film her family is completely screwed up and barely gives her the time of day. Ellen has been shuffled between her parents and frankly no one wants her nor do they want to deal with her problem anymore. In her family group therapy session, you will see how the family argues about everything but Ellen and ignores the fact that they are there for her and to help her gain control of her eating disorder.
Other critics worry that the film focuses on the new trend of “clean eating” taken too far. Though in the film you don’t see Ellen obsessing over what foods she eats and whether it is healthy or not. Ellen simply picks at her food, swirls it around, and doesn’t eat. It’s not as if she is on Instragram in her cute spandex Victoria Secret pants drinking an organic smoothie. Which again goes back to the fact that To The Bone doesn’t try to glamorize Ellen or her illness.
I will admit that I wish the film had dug deeper into the voices that Ellen hears in her head. There is one part in the film where the members in the inpatient house all scream, “Fuck you voice!”, something I have found myself doing throughout recovery. Yet they don’t go into the voices that are heard, which I think would have been very insightful to people who don’t know about or understand eating disorders.
Psychologists and therapists were worried that the film could trigger a relapse which is possible. Anyone recovering from an eating disorder knows it is an up hill battle every day and doesn’t just go away. Though, I am in recovery and watching Ellen suffer and her family suffer caused me pain and frankly made me cry for most of the film. It hurt me seeing how sick Ellen was. Honestly, it was a reality check that I needed and constantly need during recovery. Sure, I look healthy and have been receiving treatment for over two years now but ED’s voice is still there and there are days when I think about resorting back to my ED like behaviors. I think it is always helpful to be reminded of how dangerous and devastating ED is.
The film may not be for everyone but I would definitely recommend it to those who are curious of the film or those who are in recovery and feel as though they could truly handle the material. I hope more movies such as this come out so people can understand ED and the severity of the illness. ED isn’t just a diet, it is an illness of the mind and body, of lost control, and if it continues it can mean death. I was very close to killing myself if I had continued at the rate in which I was going. I thank God that I finally received the help I needed to conquer ED and most importantly knowing that I did not have to do it alone. If you know anyone suffering or has suffered, please get help or them help and know that life is so much better than a life with ED.