To the Bone (film)

Last updated
To the Bone
Official release poster
Directed by Marti Noxon
Written byMarti Noxon
Produced by
CinematographyRichard Wong
Edited byElliot Greenberg
Music byFil Eisler
Distributed by Netflix
Release dates
  • January 22, 2017 (2017-01-22)(Sundance)
  • July 14, 2017 (2017-07-14)(Netflix)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States

To the Bone is a 2017 American drama film, written and directed by Marti Noxon. The film follows a young woman, portrayed by Lily Collins, as she battles anorexia. The film premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2017, as a contender in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. [1] It was released worldwide on Netflix on July 14, 2017. Netflix's release of the film was met with controversy, with some arguing that the film glamorises anorexia. [2]



Ellen is a 20-year-old college dropout dealing with anorexia, who returns home to the house of her stepmother and father after struggling through an in-patient program and failing to make any progress. With her absentee father unwilling to deal with her, Ellen's stepmother, Susan, sets her up with a specialist, Dr. William Beckham, who insists that Ellen join his patient program. Ellen is reluctant to do so, but her mind is changed by her younger sister.

Ellen moves into the house with six other patients, who include five young women and Luke, an upbeat ballet dancer, who is near recovery from both his anorexia and a knee injury. Luke acts as a moral cheerleader for the other patients and takes a special interest in Ellen, eventually revealing that he is a fan of Ellen's art.

At a family-therapy session with Beckham, Ellen's father fails to show up. Until 18 months earlier, Ellen was living with her mother, who abandoned her to move to Phoenix, Arizona, with a lesbian partner. It is revealed that previous artwork she had posted on Tumblr was cited as an influence by a girl who later died by suicide. Ellen promises to try to do better, but instead continues to lose weight.

Ellen makes headway, changing her name to Eli and bonding with the other members of the house. She is surprised, however, when Luke kisses her and admits he is starting to fall in love with her. She panics and quickly rejects him. Later on, she learns that Megan, another woman in the house, miscarried her baby, having resumed her purging after reaching 12 weeks gestation and believing it was safe. The event sends Eli into a tailspin, and she decides to run away. On her way out, Luke begs her to stay, telling her that he needs her, as he realizes that his knee condition is permanent and he will never be able to properly dance again and needs something new on which to focus. Eli leaves anyway.

Near death, Eli goes to her mother's home. That night, her mother expresses guilt for the postpartum depression she had after giving birth to Ellen and suggests that she might try feeding Eli with a bottle while rocking her to help solve both their issues. Eli finds the idea strange, but after her mother tells her that she accepts if she chooses death, she decides to go along with the idea and allows herself to be rocked while her mother feeds her rice milk from a bottle.

After eating, Eli goes for a walk at night. Passing out, she hallucinates that she is in a tree where she kisses Luke, who is able to get her to see how sick she is. He gives her a piece of coal that represents her courage, and she swallows it.

Waking up from her dream, Eli decides to return home. She embraces her stepmother and her sister before continuing on in Beckham's patient program.



In March 2016, Lily Collins was announced to have been cast in a leading role in an anorexia drama film titled To the Bone, written and directed by Marti Noxon, based on Noxon's experiences with the eating disorder. [3] The film marks Noxon's feature directorial debut. [4] Later that month, Keanu Reeves joined the cast, portraying the role of a doctor. [5] On March 29, Carrie Preston was cast as Collins' character's stepmother. [6] AMBI Group was later reported to be co-producing and financing the picture. [7] In early April, Lili Taylor, Alex Sharp, Brooke Smith, and Liana Liberato were reported as joining the cast of the film in undisclosed roles. [8] On April 11, Ciara Bravo was cast in the supporting role of Tracy, a young girl also suffering from an eating disorder. [9]

Principal photography began in late March 2016 in Los Angeles. [4] Lily Collins reportedly lost around 20lbs for the role. [10]


The film held its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2017. It was featured as a contender in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. [1] In 2017, Netflix acquired distribution rights to the film and was released worldwide on July 14, 2017. [11] [12]


To the Bone holds a 70% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 66 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "To the Bone offers an insightful, empathetic look at a widespread issue, led by exemplary work from Lily Collins in the central role." [13] Metacritic gives the film an average score of 64 out of 100 based on 14 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [14]

Justin Chang of Los Angeles Times wrote that the film was "part character study, part PSA" and that it "chronicles a brief but meaningful period in its protagonist’s healing journey." Chang said of Lily Collins' performance, "In a different film, Ellen’s sharp tongue might have made her an insufferable fount of wisecracking negativity, but Collins’ performance is subtler than that, and the script gives her ample opportunity to reveal the character's more complicated, vulnerable edges." [15] Writing in The Guardian , Hadley Freeman was critical of the film, describing it as "shallow, sexist and sick". [2]

Backlash to the film was expressed in a variety of UK media outlets. New Statesman published an article titled "Why Netflix’s To the Bone could be triggering", in which Anna Leszkiewicz wrote that "Within hours of its release, screenshots and quotes from the trailer had made their way to pro-ana thinspo blogs" and compared the imagery of the film to pre-existing online pro-ana imagery. [16]

National British eating disorder charity Beat released a statement in response to the release of the film, which said: "We would strongly urge anyone that might be at risk of an eating disorder to think very carefully before watching this film." [17]

In response to criticisms, director Marti Noxon said, "My goal with the film was not to glamourise EDs [eating disorders], but to serve as a conversation starter about an issue that is too often clouded by secrecy and misconceptions. I hope that by casting a little light into the darkness of this disease we can achieve greater understanding and guide people to help if they need it.” [16]

Related Research Articles

An eating disorder is a mental disorder defined by abnormal eating behaviors that negatively affect a person's physical or mental health. Types of eating disorders include binge eating disorder, where the patient eats a large amount in a short period of time; anorexia nervosa, where the person has an intense fear of gaining weight and restricts food or overexercises to manage this fear; bulimia nervosa, where individuals eat a large quantity (binging) then try to rid themselves of the food (purging); pica, where the patient eats non-food items; rumination syndrome, where the patient regurgitates undigested or minimally digested food; avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), where people have a reduced or selective food intake due to some psychological reasons; and a group of other specified feeding or eating disorders. Anxiety disorders, depression and substance abuse are common among people with eating disorders. These disorders do not include obesity. People often experience comorbidity between an eating disorder and OCD. It is estimated 20–60% of patients with an ED have a history of OCD.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bulimia nervosa</span> Type of eating disorder

Bulimia nervosa, also known as simply bulimia, is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating followed by purging or fasting, and excessive concern with body shape and weight. This activity aims to expel the body of calories eaten from the binging phase of the process. Binge eating refers to eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time. Purging refers to the attempts to get rid of the food consumed. This may be done by vomiting or taking laxatives.

Promotion of anorexia is the promotion of behaviors related to the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. It is often referred to simply as pro-ana or ana. The lesser-used term pro-mia refers likewise to bulimia nervosa and is sometimes used interchangeably with pro-ana. Pro-ana groups differ widely in their stances. Most claim that they exist mainly as a non-judgmental environment for anorexics; a place to turn to, to discuss their illness, and to support those who choose to enter recovery. Others deny anorexia nervosa is a mental illness and claim instead that it is a lifestyle choice that should be respected by doctors and family.

Binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder characterized by frequent and recurrent binge eating episodes with associated negative psychological and social problems, but without the compensatory behaviors common to bulimia nervosa, OSFED, or the binge-purge subtype of anorexia nervosa.

Unspecified feeding or eating disorder (UFED) is a DSM-5 category of eating disorders that, along with other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED), replaced eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) in the DSM-IV-TR.

<i>Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia</i>

Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia is an autobiography written by Marya Hornbacher, detailing her fourteen-year battle with eating disorders. Published by HarperCollins in 1997, Wasted was a critical and commercial success. The author's young age surprised many readers, and the memoir was praised for its maturity and candor.

Ellen West (1888–1921) was a patient of Dr. Ludwig Binswanger who had anorexia nervosa. She became a famous example of existential analysis who died by suicide at age 33 by poisoning herself.

<i>Thin</i> (film) 2006 film

Thin is a 2006 cinéma vérité documentary film directed by Lauren Greenfield and distributed by HBO. It was filmed at The Renfrew Center of Florida in Coconut Creek, a 40-bed residential facility for the treatment of women with eating disorders. The center has been described as "one of the nation's best-known inpatient eating disorders centres". The film follows four women with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders in their struggle for recovery. The film premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival in 2005, before premiering to the general public on November 14, 2006 on HBO.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lily Collins</span> British and American actress (born 1989)

Lily Jane Collins is a British and American actress. Born in Guildford and raised in Los Angeles, Collins began performing on screen at the age of two in the BBC sitcom Growing Pains. In the late 2000s, Collins began acting and modelling more regularly, and gained recognition for her supporting role in the sports drama film The Blind Side (2009). She went on to star in several films, including the horror film Priest (2011), the thriller Abduction (2011), and the fantasy films Mirror Mirror (2012) and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ciara Bravo</span> American actress (born 1997)

Ciara Quinn Bravo is an American actress. She began her career as a child actress, starring in the Nickelodeon series Big Time Rush and the Fox series Red Band Society. She also appeared in the Nickelodeon television films Jinxed and Swindle.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anorexia nervosa</span> Type of eating disorder

Anorexia nervosa (AN), often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low weight, food restriction, body image disturbance, fear of gaining weight, and an overpowering desire to be thin.

<i>Abzurdah</i> (book) 2006 autobiographical book by Argentine author Cielo Latini

Abzurdah is a 2006 autobiographical book by Argentine author Cielo Latini. It was adapted to an eponymous film in 2015.

<i>Knock Knock</i> (2015 film) Film by Eli Roth

Knock Knock is a 2015 thriller film directed by Eli Roth, who also co-wrote the script with Guillermo Amoedo and Nicolás López. The film stars Keanu Reeves, Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas. The film was released on October 9, 2015, by Lionsgate Premiere. Knock Knock is a remake of Death Game, which was directed by Peter S. Traynor and starred Sondra Locke and Colleen Camp. All three individuals had a hand in the production of Knock Knock, while Camp also had a cameo in the newer film.

<i>The Bad Batch</i> (film) 2016 American dystopian film

The Bad Batch is a 2016 American dystopian thriller film directed and written by Ana Lily Amirpour. The film is about a young woman exiled to a desert where she is attacked by a group of cannibals, barely escaping alive to a bizarre settlement run by a charismatic leader. The film also stars Jim Carrey, Giovanni Ribisi, and Diego Luna.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alex Sharp</span> English actor (born 1989)

Alexander Ian Sharp is an English actor. He is known for originating the role of Christopher Boone in the Broadway production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cielo Latini</span> Argentine writer (born 1984)

Cielo Latini is an Argentine writer. As a teenager, she wrote Abzurdah, an autobiography that detailed her problems with anorexia and bulimia. The book was a success, and got a film adaption in 2015 starring María Eugenia Suárez.

Project HEAL is a nonprofit organization in the U.S. focused on equitable treatment access for eating disorders. Project HEAL is the only major direct service nonprofit in the U.S. focused on equitable healthcare access for people with eating disorders. The organization's mission is to break down systemic, healthcare, and financial barriers to eating disorder treatment. The mission is delivered through four core Treatment Support programs: Insurance Navigation, Treatment Placement, Cash Assistance, and Clinical Assessment. Project HEAL is also active in research, education, and advocacy at the national level. The organization's vision is that everyone with an eating disorder has the resources and opportunities they need to recover.

Body image disturbance (BID) is a common symptom in patients with eating disorders and is characterized by an altered perception of one's own body.


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