I’m finally ready to talk about To The Bone.
It was really hard for me to get my thoughts in order because I was traumatized, hurt, sad & frustrated and had all types of mixed emotions after watching it.
Since a lot of you messaged me telling me that you missed my rant this morning all about my thoughts about “To The Bone”, I re-listened to myself SCREAM AT MY PHONE SCREEN & got all my thoughts down on paper for you munchkins!
Yep, THAT’S HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU GUYS!
No, but in all seriousness, this is more than just a movie review.
This is about how the film affected me.
This is about my first-hand experience.
This is about me watching the film & seeing my shadow.
This is about me crying my eyes out as I watched Ellen (the main character) fall apart & look death right in the eye.
This is about a film that retells my story.
But, it’s also about a film that I have a few issues with.
Issues that need to be addressed.
Issues that are the reason eating disorders are so misunderstood, unrecognized, ignored, misconceived & underestimated in today’s society.
AND SO, WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, here I go! (P.S. Forgive me if it’s a little less structured than my usual posts – Keep in mind that this is the product of me RE-TYPING VIDEO AFTER VIDEO OF ME RANTING AT 6:00 AM. NBD!).
First & foremost, if you are in recovery or contemplating recovery & especially if you are in the beginning stages of recovery, I do not suggest you watch this movie. It triggered everything.
I don’t even know where to begin.
I watched this movie & there were moments where I laughed because jokes were made that only somebody who went through anorexia would understand.
At one point, she sniffs an uneaten candy bar & she goes “I don’t feel that unhealthy”. Someone who never went through anorexia is like “WTH is this girl talking about? She didn’t even eat it”. But, somebody who went through it & is recovering is able to find humour in that. Those types of things, I liked.
But then, there were so many parts in the movie where I literally saw myself & it was the scariest, scariest thing in the world. From a physical point of view, it depicts the illness in a very typical way but also, in a very true way.
There are so many parts in the movie where she hugs her family members & says “It’s going to be okay“. & When I was sick, I remember, my dad would call and ask if I ate dinner or how I was feeling that day & I just evaded every question & said, “Dad, I’m okay”. But I wasn’t. I really wasn’t.
Another part that stood out to me a lot was that she constantly reinforced this idea that maintaining her weight was okay. I did that too. I was 79 pounds & to me, if I woke up in the morning & I didn’t weigh less than that, I was okay.
And then, there were other parts in the movie where her family would look at her in shock & dismay & say, “She’s dying in front of us”. And, that is something my family said over & over again to me.
A lot of people that have anorexia engage in body checking. As she lay in bed at night, she would constantly be measuring her arm to make sure it did not grow from the day before because in treatment, she couldn’t weigh herself obsessively. It was her way of reassuring herself. I did that all the time. I was weighing myself. But, I still did that to reassure myself that my arm did not get any bigger than what it was yesterday. I did the same thing with my legs. It sounds crazy. It sounds insane. But it happened.
At another point in the movie, she’s with her doctor & she steps on the scale & sees that she lost weight. She kind of makes this little smirk. But at the same time, she kind of knows it is bad too. That was exactly me. She wraps the blanket around herself, she’s white as a ghost, frail & literally falling apart & dying.
I saw myself. I remember I would sit in my doctor’s office & I would tremble from cold. I was frozen. I would step on the scale & I would lose weight and she would look at me in shock. Inside, I would be so happy because I dropped weight but I also knew when I was able to suppress those anorexia thoughts for a second, how dangerous & how horrible it was.
I guess you could say that watching this movie really allowed me to RE-WATCH MY STORY, to really see what I went through.
All this to say, I watched her & I literally saw myself. I had flashes.
And in the moment, maybe I did not notice OR rather, anorexia made me refuse to notice, that all these things were so wrong. But, you watch someone else go through it, even though it’s just a movie, and you’re like “Holy crap, I was there just a few short months ago”.
I see this as an indication of how you can really turn your life around if you want to.
And in fact, at one point in the film, her therapist kind of tells her this. Basically, he says get over it & grow a pair & she gets so angry when he says this. It is so true though. You can only recover once you stop waiting for someone else to do it for you & waiting on something else to help or heal you. You have to want recovery. You can only recover fully when you are ready & this is an idea that her therapist transposes to her but she gets so mad.
& Once again, I saw myself. That was literally me in my therapist’s office. He would be so harsh with me sometimes and tell me I was stalling and finding & making up excuses. It was all so true. But, I would sit there and scream at him & I would get so angry to the point where once he had to stop me & be like “Kelly you need to calm down, this is making you too angry“. That too was a reality check. I really just had to stop & ask myself: “Why is all this making me so angry” & I came to realize that overtime it was making me so angry because it was so true. And he was so so right.
So now, before I get into the two things that I feel were wrong about this movie. I just want to say that I know I came outright to say that I heard such horrible things about this movie & had to watch it.
But I have to admit that I did not hate it. It was not as horrible as I had read or thought it would be.
One more thing before I get into it: This might be a spoiler so if you’re planning on watching it, I might spoil it. OOPS!
Towards the end of the movie, there’s a part where Ellen & all those she is in treatment with are taken out at night by their therapist & it starts pouring rain.
Every person in therapy with her runs into the rain & starts dancing, all happy, laughing & giggling. And she is just standing there staring at them. She is standing there contemplating if she should go or stay there. If she should stay in a rut or LEAVE HER COMFORT ZONE.
For me, it was a beautiful metaphor because what I saw in that exact moment was myself, in the months leading up to where I finally decided to recover.
I saw the contemplation process of what we go through when we have an ED.
It’s a constant battle between whether you step into this beautiful thing that is recovery, this thing that is unknown to you because you have never been through it or whether you stay locked into this deep & dark cave that consumes and controls you.
So I saw her fight with herself as she watched those people that she was in the facility with dance & giggle & embrace recovery & embrace the beauty of life & the fact that they were regaining their life.
She was just kind of standing there contemplating & suddenly, SHE RUNS INTO THE RAIN! She starts dancing and she’s smiling.
And it’s in that moment that the screenwriter transmits the message to us that she has finally found it within herself to recover and that she has finally found the courage & strength to delve into this beautiful thing that is recovery, this thing that is unknown to her. But she finally finds the strength to take it upon herself to do it.
I thought it was a beautifully metaphoric way to transmit the message instead of her coming out right to say that she is ready to recover.
OKAY, NOW. IN OTHER NEWS, LET’S GET INTO WHAT I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT THIS MOVIE.
I just want to put it out there that me not enjoying these aspects I’m about to rant about does not mean that I did not like the movie or that I don’t think it did a good job of depicting some aspects of the illness or showing some of what recovery entails.
FIRST & FOREMOST:
I find the movie is very clichéd, not because of what it shows about what the illness entails, but rather because of the character they chose as the main role.
It further reinforces the view that in order to be anorexic, you have to be emaciated, thin & look like a skeleton that is literally on the verge of DEATH.
I’ve mentioned this in the past, BUT the reality of anorexia is that most people that have this illness are struggling & they are unassuming. This is actually one of the many things that characterizes anorexia. The people that develop the illness develop this crazy mechanism of concealing the illness to the best of their ability & you see this in the film too.
But, what got to me the most was that the movie LITERALLY reinforced this primitive & old view (that is not adapted to today’s society) that you simply need to look skinny to be anorexic & that if you’re not, you’re fine.
In choosing Lily Collins, who was already so thin before she even got the role & then making her lose so much weight for this role, the media & the movie is transmitting this message that the story of the thin anorexic white girl who looks like she is about to die is the only story worth telling.
THE WORST PART? In today’s society, most people suffering from this illness do not look that way. They are so affected internally. And, yes, for some, and for myself, I did end up looking that way. But ultimately, it is not everyone that is sick with anorexia, that has this mental illness, that looks the way Ellen does.
And unfortunately, for people who don’t know a lot about ED’s (simply because they haven’t educated themselves because they have never been faced with them and never knew anyone close that was), this movie further reinforces the idea that if someone maintains a regular weight and looks healthy, they are okay.
BUT, IT’S NOT LIKE THAT!!!
There are so many people that are suffering (even though it doesn’t show on the outside).
& What’s more is that anorexia is not the only eating disorder. And yes, you see that in the film, which is an aspect of it that I liked. The other individuals in treatment with her have an array of other eating disorders, such as binge-eating, bulimia, a woman who is suffering from anorexia all while being pregnant & a male ballet dancer suffering from anorexia as well.
All of these are beautiful stories.
Stories that fall out of the norm.
Stories of people suffering from EDs that exist in today’s society
& All those people’s stories were not validated because Ellen’s story took over.
She was the main voice, the main character.
But what about the girl who is bulimic who is hiding a bag of vomit under her bed?
Or the girl who binges because shes suppressing emotions & is hurting & is dying inside?
& what about the girl who is pregnant who constantly has to fight with herself to eat because she is not only feeding herself, but also trying to feed a child that she so so badly wants to have?
Why didn’t the screenwriter tell us these stories?
Why didn’t the screenwriter show us the real devastating reality of people that suffer from EATING DISORDERS today?
Why do we have to further reinforce this stereotype that you need to look a certain way to have this illness, when at the root these are mental illnesses?
These are not diseases that are physical at the root.
These are diseases that affect & destroy your mind.
All this to say, what got to me about this movie is that for people who are not informed about EDs, this doesn’t teach them anything more.
And what’s worse is that if you know a bit about Lily Collins (I did some research), she actually suffered from an ED in reality. So why make her lose more weight for this role? Why? She had already suffered & been through all of this, which is why it kills me & mind boggles me that she had to lose more weight for this when she could have portrayed the exact same role in her normal weight & it would have been all that more beautiful because:
It would have shown us that somebody can come out of the illness & take that experience, that beautiful experience of recovery & use it and be featured in a film where she educates people about the illness and THE REALITY of it.
So, I really find that a movie that was most probably designed with the goal of breaking stereotypes of the illness did quite the opposite. It ONLY FURTHER reinforced a stereotype it wanted to break.
I know, it’s Hollywood.
I know, ultimately, the movie needs to make money.
I know, it needs to be attractive to viewers initially. It needs to have shock value.
And society needs to see that thin emaciated shocking body frame on the cover of the movie to want to watch it. It’s a Hollywood film. I understand & acknowledge that, at the end of the day, IT’S A MOVIE & IT’S AN INDUSTRY.
BUT, THERE WERE SO MANY OTHER WAYS & STORIES THAT THE SCREENWRITER COULD’VE GONE ABOUT TELLING. In fact, Ellen could’ve still been the main character because yes, a lot of people do get to a low weight (& I did).
BUT, they could have put the other characters more in the spotlight & featured their stories more to show that EATING DISORDERS are not:
(1) only anorexia &
(2) only about the physical.
All the OTHER CHARACTERS were part of the movie but their struggles were only featured in little bits & pieces.
And what would’ve been even more beautiful is if she had maintained normal weight & not lost so much weight for this role.
BTW, the movie did do a good job at depicting what anorexics go through everyday – the body checking, hiding of the illness, the starvation, exercise, the little deals the girls were making between themselves (i.e. “If you don’t tell them about my bag of vomit, I’ll get you a laxative“.)
These are things that people with EDs go through & had she not lost all that weight, we would have gotten to see all of that, but she would have looked like the greatest majority of people in today’s society that are suffering.
And that would have made this film all the more beautiful, and most of all, all the more realistic & relatable.
BASICALLY, I don’t know who this movie was made for.
It is certainly not made for people recovering from an ED, or contemplating pursuing it. I am recovering & I am already almost six months in. & The movie triggered so many negative thoughts & emotions. I sat there crying at some points.
This movie is not made to educate people that are misinformed or uninformed about EDs because it transmits the wrong message. It further reinforces the stereotype that people that are trying to raise awareness about EDs are trying so hard to break .
AND THEN, THIS FILM COMES ALONG.
Unfortunately, it is also not for people with other EDs, like bulimia, binge-eating or that have anorexia but that don’t look like Ellen did. This movie will make them feel like complete crap & that their story is not worth telling simply bcause they don’t look a certain way. They cannot relate to this movie. It makes the movie unrelatable because they feel their story is being put on the back-burner. It teaches us that their suffering is not worth it.
Because they don’t look like theyre about to die.
And yes, I know, at the end of the day, it’s a movie for entertainment purposes. But, then who is it made for? Who is it made to entertain? For people who are uneducated about the illness because they’ve never experienced it? And then they watch this, and then what?
All those people learn about the habits & dangerous things that people with EDs do (and the film portrays this in a great way when it comes to all EDs). But they learn about all of these signs, symptoms & dangers, all while focusing on the story of a main character who is not realistic, who does not portray the right image.
Basically, they are being taught to further reinforce the view that you need to look a certain way to be diagnosed & this is what makes eating disorders so dangerous. They are unassuming. You cannot always tell that someone has one & this is why it is so important that we break the mould & the stereotype. And films like this don’t help do it.
Once again, I am not here to criticize Hollywood or the movie industry. Although I think this was a beautiful film in some ways, it was also a beautiful opportunity for the screenwriter to finally raise awareness.s in 2017, about the fact that these types of illnesses are not defined or described or dominated by someone’s physical appearance.
And unfortunately, that was not done.
So, although I do find the film was a pretty accurate representation of what goes through the mind of someone contemplating recovery & all the things that happen behind closed doors when someone is going through the illness & when someone is starting out recovery, this aspect, THIS REINFORCEMENT OF A STEREOTYPE I AM TRYING SO HARD TO FIGHT & BREAK DAILY, really turned me off.
SECOND OF ALL:
Now, another thing. I acknowledge that it’s a movie and it’s hard to depict somebody’s mental state in a film. I understand that. But, one other thing that I didn’t love (& as I said, from a physical perspective, the film was well done & was a realistic depiction of what people go through when they suffer & recover) was that the movie could’ve focused more on the mental health aspect of the illness.
And we are kind of let in on Ellen’s life (SPOILER). She had a hard upbringing & childhood given her parents’ marriage & relationship & it breaking up.
But the movie didn’t really show the fact that recovery is often about getting to the root cause of the illness!
& THAT IS SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN SO TRUE FOR ME!
Ellen didn’t rly go through that process. It was more like OKAY:
ENTER INPATIENT FACILITY.
She had ONE, JUST ONE, family group session & her therapist went up to her afterwards & said that they were never doing that again because it went so terribly.
But if you’re never doing it again, are you tackiling the problem? Are you getting to the root of the issue?
Yes, a therapy session can go horribly. I went to so many with my dad that went so horribly that I wanted to die after them. We would argue for like three days after them. But we went back, we had no choice.
So yes, it’s a Hollywood, it’s about the physical & you need that shock factor. People need to be shocked by the behaviours that people go through, but there is such a large mental aspect to this illness, as I have constantly stressed in the past.
Anorexia (& all eating disorders, for that matter) is a mental illness & the movie does not do a good job at raising this awareness & educating people ABOUT JUST THAT.
Once again, it all goes back to the physical.
It depicts the idea that you have to look a certain way but how do you have to feel?
What emotional sutrggles are you going through?
& Ultimately, is recovery allowing you to face those mental, emotional struggles, those things inside of you that are eating you up inside?
That shame, frustration, sadness, anger, guilt?
Is recovery allowing you to face those things & to bring those things to the surface?
In this flm, I don’t think so.
Yes, she made the deicison to recover. And at the end, she goes back to the facility & she’s ready.
BUT, THE ISSUE WITH THIS IS THAT I think that the film transmits this message that if a therapy session goes wrong & then you just avoid the therapy, it transmits the message that recovery from a physical perspective is more important than recovery from a mental & emotional point of view.
And this is something we have to work hard to break.
So, overall I do think that it was a good movie. It is well written & Lily Collins played the role really well. BUT, I DO HAVE ISSUES WITH IT & these issues literally eat at me. (No pun intended).
LASTLY, ONE MORE THING. I SWEAR!
I absolutely love the way the relationship with her sister was portrayed. It reminded me of my relationship with my sister. She literally always had my back when I was sick, recovering & she still does.
And one of the most beautiful parts of the film is during the ONE family group session: Her sister starts crying and says:
“I don’t have a sister anymore”.
This is something my sister told me when I was sick. And she might not know this, but it is probably one of the things that drove me and fed me this fuel to want to recover because although we are six years apart, we are probably the two closest people in the world. We fight like animals but I love her to death. She is my favourite person on this planet & to hear her say that was the most gut-wrenching heart-wrenching thing in the world. It broke my heart. It killed me.
And then when I finally started to get better, one night, after my therapy session, in the winter, I was on the phone with her I was telling her about my progress, the meal plan, how excited I was and how much energy I had, and she was like:
“OMG, I feel like im talking to the old Kelly”.
And, it literally made my heart whole again (and now so many of my family members have said that to me).
It truly is the most rewarding thing in the world.
All in all, I thought their relationship was very beautiful & very realistic.
I remember after that family session, her sister stayed behind and said:
“If you die, I’ll kill you”
& It just showed how much her sister loved her and needed her to stay alive.
And for me, I mean I can’t get into the character’s mind, it’s just a movie at the end of the day. But for me, that was one of the things that fuelled me to recover.
Because I knew that my sister & my family, needed me & as you know if you’re close to me, we’ve suffered great loss when we lost my mom. She was the glue that held my family together.
& I used to think to myself:
How could I even expose my family to the possibility of losing me too after we have been through such horrible grief, the most traumatic experience of our lives?
How could I even subject my family to the idea of me maybe not living another day?
All this to say, I really thought the relationship between the sisters was well depicted & showed the reality of what an ED can do to family and how much it can hurt & affect them too.
ANYWHO, TO SUM THIS UP:
ONCE AGAIN, if you are contemplating recovery or just starting out, this isn’t a film for you. It can bring back a lot of thoughts, and give you a lot of ideas, as bad as it sounds.
And ultimately, if you haven’t reached a point in your recovery where you are strong enough to fight those thoughts, it can be a horrible trigger.
Wait it out.
It’s not going anywhere.
Put yourself & your recovery process first.
And if you are someone who doesn’t know much about eating disorders because you’ve never been faced with them, watch this movie. BUT, watch it with a grain of salt & with what I have told you in mind.
It really does reinforce a lot of steretoypes that we, as a society, really need to work hard to break.
& TAKE IT FROM ME. I PROMISE to continue to try to raise awareness & to break these stereotypes. And I won’t lie. It truly is so hard to do that when you have movies like this coming out on Netflix that are breaking the internet & reinforcing things that we, as people who have experienced this first hand, are trying so hard to break.