Ellen is an unruly 20-year-old anorexic girl who spent the better part of her teenage years being shepherded through various recovery programs, only to find herself several pounds lighter every time. Determined to find a solution, her dysfunctional family agrees to send her to a group home for youths, which is led by a non-traditional doctor. Surprised by the unusual rules, Ellen must discover for herself how to confront her addiction and attempt self-acceptance.
Since the beginning of 2017 Netflix has acquired and distributed an assortment of unique feature films. From titles such as War Machine and Okja, Netflix has made an impact with their 2017 catalogue and continue to impress with the newest feature To The Bone. A character driven film that tells the story of a young women who battles an eating disorder while being the center of conflict within her family. As we follow the daily routine of Ellen it begins to feel more authentic, as if we’re watching a documentary instead. The struggles we witness from Ellen and the other group members are surreal, heartbreaking, and spotlight the signs and symptoms of someone with an eating disorder.
After the films first trailer came out it received backlash for how the lead character was being depicted. First time director Marti Noxon went on record, saying the story was close to her heart as she had previously suffered from an eating disorder as well. She took the material and nurtured it, refusing to let the story be exploitive in any way, shape, or form. Another Netflix property that tackled a sensitive subject and received backlash after its initial buzz was Thirteen Reasons Why. Both properties are honest with its portrayal and show the dark truth and repercussions of the subject matter. What To The Bone does better is show that there is still hope for Ellen and the other houseguests at the group home. The film carries more weight thanks to its levity and ambition to help the characters succeed.
Lily Collins turns in a career best performance as Ellen, the 20 year old who is visibly ill and unable to beat her sickness. Her gaunt, fragile appearance is gut wrenching and makes for a difficult but necessary watch. Collins is able to go deep into the role while still providing offbeat humor when you least expect it. Her star quality is what carries the film as she seamlessly engulfs herself into a world where she is suffering and still manages to win the audience over with her gripping performance.
Always known as the big action superstar, Keanu Reeves continues his comeback tour with another compelling role. We had previously seen him as John Wick earlier this year before he transformed into a cult leader in The Bad Batch. Here he plays Dr. Beckham, a man with an unorthodox approach to his studies which has led to overwhelmingly positive results. Reeves shows of his dramatic chops as he tries to inspire Ellen to make small changes in her life, hoping it can lead to a breakthrough with her. His calm, confident demeanour is reassuring to his patients who look up to him.
To The Bone takes aim at a delicate subject matter and excels thanks to a cast that injects an appropriate blend of humor and drama. Lily Collins puts her talent on showcase as the frail Ellen while Keanu Reeves delivers a nuanced performance as the leader of the group home. Noxon has made a grounded film that doesn’t glamourize anorexia, instead bringing awareness to the issue while sprinkling light hearted humor throughout. Do yourself a favor and take 107 minutes out of your busy day to watch this empathetic film.
To The Bone is available worldwide on Netflix, starting July 14, 2017