Anorexia is a tough subject to talk about, much less make into a movie.
Discussing why young girls starve themselves to match a fashion ideal that can’t be reached is difficult for anyone. It’s even tougher when a famous person dies from this condition, as Karen Carpenter did.
For Buffy alumnus Marti Noxon, it’s a subject she knows very well. She suffered from the condition as a teenager, and now she’s written and directed a movie based on her experiences called To The Bone. It premiered in a handful of theaters, and is now on Netflix.
The story of a 20 year old struggling with anorexia, and being treated at an in-patient facility, is similar to previous movies, including The Best Little Girl in the World from 1981. What sets it apart is that it shows some harsh images on what it’s like to live with this condition.
Take Lily Collins, who plays Ellen. She is shown as very thin, right from the start. A lot of pressure is on her frail shoulders. She’s having a tough time with her stepmom (Carrie Preston) after her mom moved away with her new wife. Her dad is barely in her life, and her sister, Kelly (Liana Liberato), is also at a loss on what to do. Also, Ellen’s pictures of herself were seen in a Tumblr blog, and may have led to a girl’s death. It doesn’t help that just before Ellen leaves for treatment, she’s given a large cake shaped like a hamburger.
She is sent to a facility led by Dr. Beckham (Keanu Reeves), who has a different way to help people face their problems. He tries, especially to Ellen, convince the kids that they must believe they want to live.
It’s not just about food to him, it’s the will to live.
This part of the movie looks more like a typical “teen disease of the week” movie, but Ellen’s roommates are interesting. Luke (Alex Sharp) is an injured ballet dancer hoping to dance again, and his relationship with Ellen has some promise but her demons keep threatening it. Megan (Leslie Bibb) is pregnant, but is so thin it’s hard to notice. She is hoping her condition doesn’t threaten her chances of giving birth.
The third act is the most shocking. Ellen decides to move back to her mom in Phoenix, and her mom Judy (Lili Taylor) suggests an unusual way to feed her daughter. Then Ellen takes a long walk in the desert, and has a shocking dream. Both are hard things to watch, but Noxon told USA Today they really happened.
So far, the response to the movie has been split. Some reviewers say it glamorizes anorexia, while others say it’s a tough movie to watch, but worth it. We say it may seem like a typical teen disease movie but its look at anorexia, especially the third act, makes this movie a must-see.
By the way, Noxon will soon be showrunner for the HBO series Sharp Objects starring Amy Adams. She also plans to start a new season of Unreal on Lifetime next year.