To the Bone is directed by Marti Noxon and stars Lily Collins as Ellen, a 20 year old college drop out suffering with anorexia. She reluctantly agrees to take part in an inpatient program, lead by an unconventional doctor (Keanu Reeves), and housed with five others all suffering the same issues. Now before I go any further with this review, I think it’s important to make clear that I have never had any experience with eating disorders or BDD, and as such, my perspective on this film and the issues it raises are entirely that of an outsiders. I can’t say whether or not this film is an accurate portrayal of these diseases, but it’s certainly an effective and emotionally engaging one.
To the Bone is prefaced with a warning that those sensitive to the issues presented be cautious when choosing to watch this film, and it’s not hard to see why; the film isn’t interested in sugarcoating anything or pulling any punches. It’s a raw and sometimes disturbing film that may make some viewers very uncomfortable. This is largely through the actual film-making, as the screenplay often leaves a lot to be desired. Without getting into spoiler territory, there are a lot of plot lines and characters in this film that just don’t feel like enough to warrant responses. The dialogue is often uninspired, sometimes contrived and a small bit of exposition that we could’ve done without, and it provides a fairly dull experience. Some parts of this film are far too abrupt, the involvement of one character in particular is far too small, and overall, it makes the film a little incoherent in that regard.
Having said that, it’s only that area of the film that’s dull, as the rest of it does a pretty damn good job of creating an emotional impact. It has a sense of reservation; there are a few occasions in this film, one in particular towards the end of the second act, where they could have easily put every little bit of drama on display to crank up the emotions, but instead they rely on simple reactions and effective sounds to convey the distress of the situation, and it’s done beautifully. I found myself squirming at the film’s most uncomfortable moments, as it truly accomplishes everything it sets out to do. The film offers a lot of different perspectives on these illnesses, most importantly from those who actually suffer it, and the character building between the most prominent three presented is done very well. Alex Sharp’s character Luke starts off very irritating, and before long, he’s still not too likable but there’s a fair bit of humanity to him that just cannot be ignored.
Let’s talk about Keanu Reeves in this film; as much as I love the guy, I’ve often spoke ill of his actual acting talent, but here he has a lot on display that I didn’t know he was capable of. It may not be one of the best in his filmography, but it’s quite possibly one of his best performances to date. And of course, we can’t forget Lily Collins, who is absolutely extraordinary in the lead role. She taps into the part both physically and mentally, and contributes heavily to the film’s most upsetting moments. Her chemistry with everyone is astounding, Reeves in particular, and she adds some real heart to the core of this film.
Perhaps To the Bone will mean more to those that have been affected by these conditions, but whilst it’s screenplay is lacking, it most certainly makes up for it in it’s performances, film-making and overall unnerving depiction of something that no one should ever have to face.
To The Bone is available on Netflix.