Marti Noxon / Lily Collins, Carrie Preston, Lili Taylor, Keanu Reeves, Alex Sharp / Drama / 2017 / 15 / 107mins
One of the most publicised mental illnesses of the modern era has undoubtedly been anorexia. Society’s pride for stick-thin physiques in celebrity culture has damaged (and killed) untold thousands. Can Netflix grasp the message with To The Bone by the throat, or flounder?
Ellen (Lily Collins) has long battled anorexia. The illness forced mother Judy (Lili Taylor) to hand Ellen back to her absent father. Seemingly abandoned, Ellen fails to make any progress. Desperate to keep her step-daughter alive, Susan (Carrie Preston) turns to Dr William Beckham (Keanu Reeves). At a home dedicated to inpatient care, Ellen meets Luke (Alex Sharp), an overly upbeat Englishman intent on getting his ballet career back on track, and equally intent on winning her heart.
Whilst I am wholly appreciative of the work this movie does in giving anorexia a mainstream voice, the content is not fastidious enough. Cues to why Ellen’s anorexia accelerated are drip-fed throughout. One momentous event sent Ellen into the downward spiral we find her in. Little else defines her situation. In fact, there’s little that actually happens to Ellen. She’s in limbo, neither healthy nor on her deathbed, but getting close to the latter.
The lasting hope of To The Bone is Megan’s baby. When Megan (Leslie Bibb) miscarries, Ellen is forced to re-evaluate her life choices. It’s by far the best used scene – the symbolism at play, life versus death, the devotion to realism etc. – and best acted. Meanwhile, the distraction of Luke’s flirtatious advances muddle the plot. Is Ellen’s sole escape through love? Heart-warming material it ain’t.
Collins’ performance is exquisite. Her character is clearly more complicated than the script lets on, and Collins delves into that treasure trove of unused emotional subtleties: a human oxymoron of sharp wit and soft edges. Reeves’ typically composed self gives an assured performance. Clearly, his experience reaps dividends as others are less fulfilling. Sharp, for example, is plain annoying – he needs to abandon the whole posh gent persona ASAP.
Although a minor point, the absence of the father is a fantastic way of portraying ‘the bad parent’. Both in a realistic and metaphorical sense, it hits home that he’s not there for Ellen. His silence speaks volumes. Then there’s Judy. The mother-daughter relationship is restored by the end, but it seems a mutually assured ending from the beginning. There’s an attempt at pseudo-Freudian regression, as if that too is an answer, but there’s nothing scientific or even metaphorical about the process.
The less said about the ending the better. An epiphany dream sequence that solves the jigsaw to all of life’s problems is a bad one, putting it lightly.
There’s a desire to be taken seriously, but there are too many misused sequences. Technically basic with ineffective acting, To The Bone is not the drama this topic deserves.
Film as a Film – 2 / Target Audience – 3 / General Audience – 2
To The Bone is available on Netflix now
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