Review: TO THE BONE (2017) 'Emily Collins plays an anorexic in the film based on director Marti Noxon's experience'


Joseph Friar

By Joseph Friar
July 12, 2017 at 9:57 p.m.

TO THE BONE (2017)

Lily Collins, Alex Sharp, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Lili Taylor, Liana Liberato

Directed by Marti Noxon 

After working alongside Joss Whedon as a writer and producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and tackling the screenplay for the 2011 reboot of Fright Night, director Marti Noxon makes her feature debut with a film that explores something more frightening than monsters, Anorexia.  Based on her personal experience with the eating disorder, “To the Bone” is an honest look at the disease without exploiting the subject matter.  Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply) plays a 20-year-old anorexic who enters a group home for youths run by an unconventional doctor (Keanu Reeves) to treat the disease after enrolling in several unsuccessful recovery programs during her teens.  

Unlike other diseases there is a misconception, mostly by men, that anorexia is more of a vanity thing by females who are obsessed with their bodies but Noxon along with Collins who as a teenager also dealt with the eating disorder, hope to dispel that fallacy by shedding light on the subject with this film. The story may come from a personal space but there is dark humor embedded in the script leading to some very funny moments in the film.  A talented supporting cast that includes Tony Award-winning Broadway actor Alex Sharp, the wonderful Carrie Preston from True Blood, and indie queen Lily Taylor, make this an entertaining journey filled with laughter, heartbreak, and hope.  

Ellen (Collins) is a talented artist who used Tumbler to showcase her artwork which dealt with her anorexia.  She amassed quite a following until one of her fans (rexies) committed suicide causing Ellen to take down the blog and fall into a deeper depression.  After another failed treatment center (this makes four) Ellen’s step-mom Susan (Carrie Preston) pulls a few strings to get her enrolled in a radical group home run by Dr. Beckham (Reeves).   Once there she befriends the residents who are also battling the eating disorder including Luke (Sharp) a former dancer from London who has eyes for the new tenant.  The narrative flirts with a possible romance but don’t expect The Fault in Our Stars, however the scenes with Collins and Sharp are some of the film’s best moments. 

On the homefront Ellen receives little support from her family.  Her dad flips the bill for the treatment but he is MIA at any of the meetings or support groups.  Step-mom Susan is always more than ready to dispense useless advice and Ellen’s real mother Judy (Lili Taylor) has moved away to Arizona with her lesbian partner Olive (Brooke Smith) in a way to escape from having to deal with her daughter’s illness.  A family therapy session suggested by Dr. Beckham turns into a disastrous shouting match between Judy and Susan leaving Ellen speechless.  In fact, her only support comes from half-sister Kelly (Liana Liberato) who also unloads during the session to complain about Ellen’s disease which has taken a toll on her life. 

Collins, daughter of musician Phil Collins, worked with a nutritionist to undergo a physical transformation for her role.  She delivers a heartfelt performance that breathes life into this passionate film.  Noxon worked with Project HEAL to cast light onto the subject and inspire those struggling with the eating disorder to seek help.  Recovery is possible. 

(3 ½ stars) 

Premiers Friday July 14 on NETFLIX       



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