Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Netflix’s To the Bone gives insight to eating disorders

Desi LaPoole
A&E Editor

Trigger warning: eating disorders

I am a huge fan of stories that draw upon the personal experiences of the writer. I believe that drawing inspiration from personal experiences and struggles not only helps the writer understand and come to terms with the events in their lives, but also helps the audience do so.

Drawing from her own hardships with eating disorders, Marti Noxon, writer and director of Netflix’s To the Bone, creates an emotional and believable story about the struggles of anorexia.

To The Bone is one of the latest in Netflix’s breadth of new movies. This drama follows Ellen, a ghostly 20-year-old college dropout, as she struggles to recover from anorexia. Played by Lily Collins, the first impression you get from Ellen is that she is thinner than thin: skeletal. Her cheeks and eyes have sunk into her face and her bones jut out so harshly from pale translucent skin it looks as if they might break through. She looks as though she’s slowly disappearing under the large sweaters she wears.

Starting with her appearance and throughout the entire movie, Noxon doesn’t hide behind nor try to glamorize eating disorders; she takes the disease head-on with stark depictions of the reality of those in recovery.

Within the first fifteen minutes, we see that Ellen’s bony spine is badly bruised from religiously doing bedside sit-ups. Noxon shows the unfortunate creativity of some characters, such as hiding barf bags under their beds and drinking warm water to trick the body into believing it’s full.

To Ellen’s privileged yet dysfunctional family, and to the audience, Ellen’s behavior is self-destructive but she doesn’t seem to care. Noxon subtly and naturally teases out the complexities of Ellen’s situation, and explains part of the reason she has lost her desire to participate in her own life. Her personality has sunken inside of her just as her eyes have, leaving the audience wondering for most of the movie if she’s even interested in her own survival.

Ellen’s character contrasts against her antithesis and romantic interest, Luke. The two characters meet in the treatment facility run by the supposedly revolutionary Dr. William Beckham, played by Keanu Reeves. Luke is a positive happy-go-lucky dancer who has made the most progress recovering from his eating disorder. He acts as the support system that the other characters need, and he shows not only the audience, but also Ellen what someone trying to regain their health looks like.

With a variety of eating disorders represented and personal stories attached to them, the most resonate message Noxon shares in the movie is that there is no single and surefire path to recovery. During a group therapy session, a counselor states, “It’s scary, but only you can decide to see what’s good…to be alive.” Each character has their own quirks, reasons and methods to becoming healthy again, and we watch as Ellen finds her own path back to her life.

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