Netflix continues to fail its portrayal of the mentally unwell with To the Bone

Courtesy of Talkie Magazine, a film-related online publication whom I’ve recently founded and now edit and write for. Here is an example of one of my film reviews. See more of my posts here.

Directed by Marti Noxon, the lady who created a series as amazing as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I had high hopes for To the Bone.

Courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes, the critic consensus of To the Bone was that is ‘offers an insightful, empathetic look at a widespread issue, led by exemplary work from Lily Collins in the central role.’ However, I really beg to differ.

It’s true that the subject of eating disorders remains very taboo and I respect the idea of this film trying to promote awareness, but To the Bone promised to offer an insight into the lives of those who suffer with these mental illnesses and sadly, it disappointed. With Lily Collins having struggled herself with anorexia, the film is said to be based loosely around her individual experiences and Collins is arguably a talented actor and stunning alongside that. But I still can’t help comparing the flick to 13 Reasons Why and we all know how terribly that went down its viewers.

Lily Collins plays Ellen, an anorexic 20-year-old artist with an emotionally painted past who is sent to a corrective facility for treatment. As if her artistic talents and mind-blowing beauty aren’t stereotypical enough, Ellen is from a broken family- her mother lives with another woman, her father has no interest in her and her stepmother has far too much interest. It can additionally be argued that the involvement of a love interest for Ellen alongside each of the kooky characters in the facility are equally as stereotypical and reminiscent of those from films such as Girl, Interrupted.

I can confidently say that To the Bone, from a story-telling point of view, was unique and independent despite having clear similarities to other films regarding mental health. Yet whilst this film had many positives such as using Collins’ first-hand experiences and attempting to prevent any triggering scenes to those who suffer with an eating disorder and may watch this movie, it didn’t make up for the overall verdict that myself and many others came to.

To the Bone goes to unrealistic lengths to convince the viewer that Ellen is different; she’s quirky and badass, admirable almost. I know that most directors desire that their film’s protagonist is likeable, but admirable? I found it almost shocking (and slightly dangerous) that a film regarding such sensitive material would create a character that other people may almost see as a role model; and not necessarily in a positive light.

Once again, a film with so much potential and beautiful scenery has failed many people who really wished for the world to gain an insight on what living with an eating disorder is really like. Anyone can respect that To the Bone had good intentions, especially regarding a topic such a delicate topic – that can potentially cause severe harm – but similarly to previous Netflix-made fiasco’s, it just wasn’t enough for the people who were hoping it would be.

Image Credit: The Sun

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4 thoughts on “Netflix continues to fail its portrayal of the mentally unwell with To the Bone

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    1. I wouldn’t particularly recommend it if I’m being completely honest. I’m sure plenty of other viewers of the film would say the same – to anyone!

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  1. It’s a real shame that the series creators, while trying to tackle an important issue, have fallen into the same tropes! Hopefully things will change and we’ll see something more realistic in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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