Movie Review of To The Bone (2017)

To the Bone (2017), A Double-edged Sword
“Don’t fade away.” Let’s put the controversial movie under the spotlight. 

Directed by Marti Noxon
Cast: Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Lili Taylor, Alex Sharp
Runtime: 1 hour, 45 minutes

I’m going to be honest here. The main reason why I watched this movie was because of this scene.

John Wick sidelines as a doctor, apparently. Because, hell yes. Photo from

That’s right. Keanu Reeves. As long as he’s got the John Wick hair going on, I’d probably buy anything he sells me. Anyway, it didn’t take long until I started to see how the movie mirrored the 13 Reasons Why dilemma; the movie was said to be “glorifying” the disease. Before I begin my rant about this particular issue, let’s get on with the review. 

When I pressed play… 

It seemed like a typical Netflix production. Awesome lighting, pretty characters. We find the anorexic Ellen (Lily Collins) winning a “who gets kicked out of rehab first” bet. It was petty, I admit, but I remind myself the protagonist was a college dropout. She wears eyeliner, dark clothing, and has an annoying stepmom who, despite helping Ellen, didn’t shy away from expressing ignorant comments regarding her disorder. 

After that, I get to the part I was waiting for: stepmother booked a check-up with the rather famous Dr William “Dr Becks” Beckham (Reeves). The audience is quick to find out that his treatment is untraditional, although still bound by medical disciplines. He’s a legit doctor here, but a really, really cool one. 

“Fuck fault,” the doctor says during family group therapy -- and then and there, you know it’s going to be an interesting ride. But then again, the story does not revolve around the charming doctor. We go back to Ellen, who eventually, albeit reluctantly, agrees to join the inpatient program to recover. You can tell she already wants to leave, but she eventually finds herself bonding with all the residents in Threshold, but of course, it doesn’t take long until a trigger pushes her off the track to recovery and back into the landslide of her disorder.


The story is predictable, but the way it was written and how each character was portrayed hit the right spots. This movie wasn't created to impress, it was crafted by the people behind it to tell a story about hope. To be fair, I did get why critics were saying it was a “trigger” to anorexic patients and the like. Take the first act as an example; we get a peek into Ellen’s life. She was damaged ala Girl, Interrupted. In my books, that made her mildly cool. It didn’t help that Lily Collins was a beautiful woman; despite the attempt to make her all skin and bones, you can already imagine tweens and teens wanting to be her despite the alarming sickness she was depicting. I, for one, enjoyed seeing her pretty face (albeit worrying about her weight and well-being) look so bored and uninterested in the world around her. She was just misunderstood, and that’s what most people feel, regardless of age and health. Life was harsh, hard and confusing, and it was easy to see that Ellen knew that.

However, what I appreciated in this movie was its persistence to send a message. It wasn’t just that people with eating disorders needed more understanding and patience from the people around them, or that there’s always a reason to hope, but it was actually the single line uttered by Ellen’s biological mother during the failed group therapy session in the movie. 

We need to show it’s there, no matter how sucky it may be.  Picture from

“The art has to exist!” 

This movie encapsulated those words well. Everything in this world could be a double-edged sword. But with the right guidance, this can be a movie that can shed light on people suffering from eating disorders. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for some, but as the movie presented its message, you have to take the “Charcoal of Courage” and hope for the best. It’s not easy, but you will make it through. 

It was heartwarming to know that the story, was indeed, semi-autobiographical. Noxton only had the same amount of courage to traverse this sensitive issue because it meant something to her. She wanted to share her story because she was a survivor. And honestly, there isn’t quite anything like the telling of a tale of a strong woman. 

The film is, in all sense, sincere. For instance, even if Ellen was a snappy, irate protagonist, you would find yourself listening to her reasons, trying to understand her inability to just “choose to be better”. Also, take for instance the two male leads in the show: one being her doctor, and the other, her optimistic housemate/love interest. They were such huge contrasts to Ellen’s absentee father, who literally had zero screen time. Doctor Becks and Luke (Alex Sharp) continuously reached out to her (don’t miss out on the amazing field trip scene), wanting nothing more but for Ellen to see that her life was worth living. However, their efforts were not the solution to this story because the only person who can save Ellen was herself. She had to be her own hero. 


On the flip side, the movie could, however, come across as yet another representation of white privilege. Perhaps, one of the reasons why others found offence in the movie, was that here was another white girl who had all the access to mental care and rehab, yet she didn’t want to get better, and the movie was rubbing it to their faces. 

Still, it’s important to say that there was a turning point in the movie where Ellen herself made peace with her seemingly tactless stepmother. When she realized that it was her stepmother who had been actively trying to make her healthier, it made me think whether this was the director’s way of telling the world that she had forgiven her detractors, the ignorant masses who continue to judge or express their “concerns” in ways only they knew how. At the end of the day, some battles just can’t be won. 

One of the highlights of the show was Ellen’s relationship with her younger sister Kelly, played by Liana Liberato. For the record, Kelly’s characterization was superb. Whenever they were on the same screen together, you could see how healthy she was compared to Ellen. Still, their chemistry was spot on.  What made the sisterhood worthy of praise was that despite their close relationship (they laugh at the stepmother’s antics, agree that family group therapy sucked) was when Kelly, who seemed like a really cool and easy-going sister, struggled with her tears when confronted about the effect of Ellen’s disorder to her life. It was such a short scene, but I think it was one of the best parts of the movie. 

My only concern was the last act. This was during Ellen’s relapse, triggered by a love confession. Her instinct was to bolt, and she does, rather swiftly. She returns home to her mother and her mom’s wife (yes, another stepmom), and the movie gives you a rather unconventional scene. First, the mother says she “accepts” that Ellen chooses death (as she doesn’t want to get better), and then they share a very strange feeding/bonding moment that is better watched in the movie than read in a book. Then, it was followed by a dream sequence that felt too fairytale-ish. 

I almost wanted the movie to be longer just so we can see Ellen get better, as her character development’s turn for the better felt rushed. My doubts regarding Ellen’s character have to be appeased by the last scene of the movie: she’s wearing white, fresh-faced, and smiling genuinely for the first time. 

Yes, it’s a happy ending. :) Photo by

Watch it or Ditch it? 

Definitely, watch it! But not when you’re planning to get frisky afterwards — unless you’re still thinking of the sexy Doc Becks, that is. By all means, proceed… 




Jacal Ste. Worme is a writer by day and an even crazier writer by night. Still working on her first official novel, you can read her countless mumbo-jumbo in various websites from, Wattpad, and Ao3. You can follow her on Tumblr or Twitter. 

Find out more about Jacal Ste. Worme here.

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