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Film / To the Bone

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To the Bone is a Netflix original drama film written and directed by Marti Noxon. It premiered on July 14, 2017.

The story revolves around Ellen (Lily Collins), a young artist suffering from severe anorexia nervosa. She's been kicked out of four different inpatient facilities for her defiance and flippant attitude towards recovery. Having dropped out of college and with her birth mother feeling it's "not right" for her to deal with the situation, Ellen moves back in with her controlling stepmother and often-absentee father.

Ellen's stepmother makes arrangements for her to meet a specialist, Dr. William Beckham (Keanu Reeves), feeling it may be her last hope. Ellen reluctantly agrees to stay at Threshold House, but is quickly taken off guard by her fellow inpatients and Dr. Beckham's....unique approach to therapy.

The film became controversial even before its release, particularly because of Lily Collins' severe weight loss to play the lead.

This film provides examples of:

  • All Girls Like Ponies: Pearl, a young adult patient with an innocent, childlike personality, loves My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and is seen with merchandise from the show in most of her scenes.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Part of the reason Eli isn't terribly receptive to male advances.
    Luke: Were you bad touched as a child or something?
    Eli: Not any more than usual. [sees his confused face] You know, once you get boobs, it's season.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Nicely averted. When Ellen's stepmother tries come up with a Freudian Excuse for Ellen's eating disorder, Beckham firmly states that looking for a single reason for these things is a waste of time.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Kelly really wants her sister to recover, and expresses it with lines like, "if you [run away] again, I will punch you in the vagina".
  • Black Comedy: The film isn't afraid to make jokes about eating disorder behaviors and other material that may disturb some but be relatable/humorous to those who have actually suffered from eating disorders.
    Lobo: I'm gonna have to search [Ellen's bag]. Any razors or X-Actos I should know about? You a cutter?
    Ellen: Not that on-trend.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Megan (called "The Unicorn" by Luke because of the bizarre circumstances surrounding her pregnancy). Her reproductive system had lapsed due to weight loss, and she didn't think she was recovered enough to conceive.
  • Camp Straight: Luke. He's a flamboyant former ballet dancer, but he's clearly smitten with Ellen from the start.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: FUCK OFF, VOICE! Then the good doctor participates by Flipping the Bird.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ellen. It's the second thing we learn about her, right on the heels of her being a Nietzsche Wannabe. As the unnamed therapist leading a combination group therapy and arts 'n' crafts session learns, she doesn't even have to speak.
    Therapist: Ellen, can you think of a way to say [that life sucks and it's useless to blame the media for our problems] without invalidating Penny's feelings?
    Ellen: [silently holds up a cut-and-paste sign that says "SUCK MY SKINNY BALLS"]
  • Erotic Eating: Alluded to when Luke first tries to coax Ellen into eating the Goo Goo Cluster.
    Luke: You know you want it.
    Ellen: Okay, don't make it a sex thing.
    Luke: It is a sex thing. Don't pretend it's not.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When Ellen is being examined by Dr. Beckham, she's pretty much talking to him like any other previous doctor she's had and trying to put off a false innocence. He's having none of it, establishing his character in the film.
    Dr. Beckham: I talk to kids like you all day, every day. So I know that you are, as a rule, full of shit.
  • Fan Disservice: Par for the course. Lily Collins in a bralette and tights might be fun if it weren't for the fact that you could use her body to teach children all 206 bones.
  • Flipping the Bird: After the Cluster F-Bomb the doctor then follows up with this.
  • Fire-Forged Friends / True Companions: The inpatients. There are some things you can't suffer through together without ending up liking each other, and fighting off mental illness is one of them.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Kelly and Megan.
  • Hates Being Touched: Eli, as Luke finds out, prompting him to ask if she was "bad-touched" as a kid.
  • Hospital Hottie: Dr. Beckham, naturally. Lampshaded when he shows up to get the group out of the house in jeans and an untucked shirt instead of his usual tie-bound self.
  • Howl of Sorrow: Megan wakes Threshold House in the middle of the night with one of these when she discovers her miscarriage.
  • I'm Going to Hell for This: Ellen says "Oh my god, we're going to hell." in one scene, referring to herself and Luke after lying about having cancer to a waitress at a Chinese restaurant.
  • The Ingenue: Pearl is stuck in a very innocent, child-like state. We never find out why or if it's related to her anorexia.
  • Jerk Ass Has A Point: Ellen snarking back at her mother while her stepmother reprimands her for drinking only water for breakfast (at the same time she herself is getting a cup of coffee).
    Stepmother: You know that's not breakfast, right? (Pours a cup of coffee).
    Ellen: Yeah, well, neither is coffee.
  • Loony Fan: One of Ellen's fans loved her anorexia-themed artwork so much that she left Ellen her suicide note. Her grieving, furious parents sent Ellen photographs of their daughter's suicide to make sure she understood what she'd done.
  • Madness Mantra: Via Ellen in the trailer as she maintains an obsession with counting calories and over-exercising through her eating disorder, until she collapses that is.
    Ellen: I got it under control...I got it under control...I got it under control...
  • Married to the Job: When pressed to even the turf with Eli, Dr. Beckham admits to being single and childless because his work gets in the way and he likes it that way.
  • Meaningful Rename: Beckham encourages his patients to choose what they're called, presumably to foster a fresh sense of identity that doesn't revolve around eating (or lack thereof). Ellen—>Eli and Lucas—>Luke are the only ones we get explicitly; the others may or may not be going by their legal names.
  • No Ending: In the end, Ellen reconciles with both her birth mother and her stepmother, and decides to receive inpatient treatment for her anorexia once again. But we never get to see if she reconciles with her barely-seen father, nor do we learn if her return to treatment was successful.
  • Parental Abandonment: The reason Ellen is living with her stepmother and father. Her mothers lost hope of her ever recovering from her eating disorder and left her shortly after she turned eighteen.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The inpatients, including a dancer determined to recover so he can still be successful; an age-regressed girl who's just "gotten the tube" when we meet her; a teenager who is mostly in therapy because she found out she was pregnant and wants the baby to live; and, of course, Eli.
  • Rape as Backstory: Luke asks Eli if that's why she shrugs off intimacy, citing it being a common contributor to disordered eating. She shuts that down quick, but it remains as a possible explanation for other patients' odd behaviors, like Pearl's regressing, another common response to trauma.
  • Real Dreams are Weirder: The surreal dream sequence near the end. Possibly helped by Ellen being delirious from weight loss and exertion.
  • The Reveal: Exactly what happened with that "crazy fan". She loved and romanticized Ellen's rexie-related artwork so much that when she killed herself, she left Ellen the note. And to make sure she understood what she'd done, the girl's parents sent Ellen pictures of the suicide.
  • Shout-Out: Pearl loves My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. When we first see her, she's wearing a blanket with Applejack and Rainbow Dash on it, and the decorations at her birthday party have Pinkie Pie on them.
  • Stealth Pun: Anna and Mia.
  • Therapy Is for the Weak: Ellen's stance at the beginning of the film, largely because no therapy has ever helped her. She initially refuses to try going inpatient again before Dr. Beckham manages to convince her.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Eli (loose, dark clothes and a rough attitude) and her stepsister Kelly (skirts, pale colors, and a liking for curling her hair).
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Kendra loves peanut butter so much she'll eat it straight from the jar. Invoked, as the inpatient house will let them more or less eat whatever it is they want, like Eli and the Goo Goo Clusters (a candy made with nuts, caramel, marshmallow and milk chocolate), even if it's unhealthy, because at least they're eating something.
  • Tragic Stillbirth: Megan is trying to get better for her baby's sake, but ends up suffering a miscarriage after a purging session.
  • Truth in Television: A large part of the film's depiction of eating disorders is incredibly accurate, to the point where it came under fire for being a "how-to manual on eating disorders."