Hot Take: Another very good Netflix exclusive. Lily Collins is a rising star.
2017’s theatrical lineup has been a disappointment. One big win in the film world is the rash of good to very good Netflix exclusive films that has seemingly grown this year. One of the latest is To The Bone which is based on the real life experiences of writer/director Marti Noxon and deals with the struggle of eating disorders. It’s a film that, on the surface, has an appearance that it could be a little thin on plot (especially considering Keanu Reeves has a rather meaty supporting role in the film) but once inside the film, you realize To The Bone is an excellent character study and even a little bit educational when it comes to the worst issues that come about due to eating disorders.
Starring Lily Collins as Ellen, the film deals with the 20-year-old college dropout’s struggles with anorexia. In and out of inpatient programs and failing to make any progress (which means gain weight), Ellen is given the opportunity to check in to another program run by Dr. William Beckham (Reeves). At the house, she meets 6 others with eating disorders — 5 women and Luke (Alex Sharp) a ballet dancer well on the road to recovery — but she resists the treatment and continues to refuse to eat and lose weight. In family therapy, she deals with her mom (Lili Taylor), mother’s girlfriend (Brooke Smith) and stepmom (Carrie Preston) and their self-serving agenda. The only one to offer any real insight and emotion is Ellen’s half-sister Kelly (Liana Liberato). Dr. Beckham is honest with Ellen and says family therapy is a waste of time and instead Ellen is to focus on interacting with her housemates and trying to eat. Luke pushes the hardest to get Ellen to open up mainly because he’s had a crush on her before she even made it to the house — Ellen was a Tumblr artist who impacted many lives of people with eating disorders with her drawings including being blamed as the reason one girl committed suicide — but also because he is frequently the most positive person in the house.
Without revealing much more, the film is a great character piece even if it is a little skinny on plot. Collins last appeared in Rules Don’t Apply and shined in that performance and does it again in To The Bone. She’s very believable in the role and feels very realistic. You feel on the inside of the story which is likely due to Noxon’s first-hand experiences. There is something about most of the supporting cast that feels a little generic but overall, they do an excellent job as well. The film maintains its ability to never get too theatrical until the third act and, until then, feels very grounded, gritty and real. The final 20 minutes of the film feels a bit off and inconsistent with the rest of the film but never goes Hollywood either which is a pleasant surprise, too.
If Netflix continues to release quality films such as To The Bone, the entertainment outlet will be a viable source for new films when considering “going to the movies” especially as the quality of films in theaters have taken a noticeable step backward this year. This isn’t to say that Netflix will ever be a direct competitor for the theatrical dollar but the occasional “Netflix and chill” night might replace a trip to the theater, here and there. And the catch phrase might actually refer to watching something, too.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
I’ve been looking forward to Collins’ next turn on screen and she did not disappoint with her role in To The Bone. Her next role will be in Halo of Stars which is due in 2017. Now, we can look forward to that role, as well.
- Focus on the Emotion and Psychology of the Disorder Rather Than the Physical Impact
You can see the physical impact of eating disorders in the film’s characters. However, it’s never a focal point and it is clearly the emotion and psychology of the eating disorder the film wants to convey.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Rock Bottom Never Feels That Low
As the film digs deeper into the damage eating disorders can do, To The Bone feels like it is taking jabs rather than delivering anything close to a knockout blow to the damage these psychological conditions can do to the person and people they affect.