To The Bone Review
by Phillip Wilcox "Our Movie Demon"
It's always fun when movies and TV shows can be entertaining and give us all an escape from daily life. Especially when hard times arise. However, I'm also one to subscribe to the philosophy that film and television shows can be a useful tool to help deal with life hardships and difficult times through great storytelling and characters that may be going through something identifiable and relatable. And I believe those are the movies and shows that can really resonate with human beings on a very fundamental and basic level. Netflix has been really conscious lately about producing and releasing content that tackle real hard hitting issues that are both incredibly relevant, and also issues that spark deep conversations. Especially conversations that otherwise aren't always easy to have.
A few months ago Netflix produced a brutally honest show based on a book entitled 13 REASONS WHY. The story was about a teenage high school girl who is savagely bullied to the point of her committing suicide. Before her demise she records 13 cassette tapes where she tells in great detail the story of everything that happened to her that lead her to make the decision to end her own life. Not only did it expose topics of Bullying and Suicide, but also shined a light on Rape as well. All issues that aren't easy to talk about. Especially between parents and their kids. And I felt this show was a fantastic bridge that could bring both parents and their teen kids, or any adult and younger people, together to have honest discussions. Not just a short hand chat that only lasts a few minutes. But really open people up. And though I have not expressed this before, I will express it now. I truly believe whole heartedly that the ONLY reason why the show had some controversy attached to it at all, had Nothing to do with the fact that people thought that it glorified or romanticized Suicide. Though they may Think that's what was bothering them. But no, what I really believe is that the show scared the shit out of them tremendously by just how realistic it was in its approach to showing what Suicide looks like. There are in fact movies and shows out there that really do soften the blow of what the act itself looks like. Candles must be lit. The look and cinematography must be soft, hazy and dream-like. Or perhaps some slow acoustic indie music as soundtrack to be played during the act. But the one episode of 13 REASONS WHY did none of that. No candles, no soft look or special angles, no music. The shots were straight on and direct, the room is silent. And then, the devastating aftermath of being discovered. It basically said through what was happening, "Here is what Suicide looks like. It's painful, it's intense, it's not easy to watch, and this is how it can affect others." And you know what, that scene achieved its desired affect. It scared people shitless to the point of certain people not knowing how to respond to it or handle it other than to get defensive about it and say the show glorified it and romanticized it. But in actuality, there was no glory, and there was no romance. It was brutal, it was honest, it was authentic. And for all of that I must applaud Netflix for having the balls to expose Bullying, Suicide & Rape for what they really are - Ugly and tragic.
We now fast forward to just a few days ago when Netflix once again released something they produced. This time a film entitled TO THE BONE. It's story about a 20 year old young woman named Ellen (Lily Collins) who is living with the eating disorder Anorexia Nervosa. Another topic that is rarely discussed, much less acknowledged. I will admit that I do not know a whole lot about eating disorders as I do not know anyone close to me that lives with it. But after I watched the film I did akin it to addiction. It is a mental illness that affects the body in relation to food, though the cause of what is the catalyst of Anorexia or Bulimia varies. She is entered in an out-patient program where Ellen is sent to live in a house with a group of others around her age who also suffer from eating disorders. The program is lead by a doctor (Keanu Reeves) who uses a rather uncoventional approach to treatment. He is honest, upfront and doesn't sugar coat anything. But not in a mean way. He is like this to try and inspire his patients to be strong and courageous. He's a no bullshit doctor. And I found that refreshing to see in a film! There aren't many scenes with Keanu's character, but anytime he is onscreen he is magnetic and his performance is quite powerful. But ultimately this story is about Ellen's difficult journey to getting well. And I felt it was a beautiful, moving, poignant, and surprisingly funny story. Writer/director Marti Noxon wrote a story that I felt perfectly balanced humor and drama that dealt with such a serious topic. Lily Collins leveled me with her performances. And though the physical transformation of Lily is difficult to look at (I haven't been wowed by an actor's physical transformation like that since Christian Bale in the Machinist), her conviction to every performance she gives is captivating and flawless. TO THE BONE is a film that doesn't hold back and something I highly recommend seeing!
Writer/Director: Marti Noxon
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Lily Collins, Leslie Bibb, Kathryn Prescott, Liana Liberato, Carrie Preston, Alanna Ubach, Lili Taylor, Brooke Smith, Alex Sharp, Rebekah Kennedy
Running Time: 1 hr 47 mins
Genre: Comedy / Drama
How It Can Be Seen: Netflix