I don't usually review movies on my blog but I've had many people ask me my opinion on the new Netflix movie "To the Bone". In the eating disorder world, this movie is causing a lot of controversy. Many are saying that it glorifies Anorexia Nervosa. Some are saying that it just perpetuates the stereotype that all people with eating disorders are emaciated. On the other end of things, some people are happy that it's at least creating more awareness of eating disorders. I thought I'd watch it and form my own opinion......(*Warning: Contains spoilers)
To be honest, even after watching this movie, I'm not sure if I liked it or not. There were some parts that were ok and others that bothered me. I guess my feelings for it can be described by the word "meh".
First of all, for anyone struggling with an eating disorder, it can be very triggering in many ways. Not only does it show the lead as emaciated, it also shows her measuring her arm, having symptoms, it has people talking about their symptoms openly and it even gives ideas on how to "cheat" treatment. On the one hand, this is realistic as this is what happens in real life; but on the other hand, if you are someone who already struggles with these thoughts, you don't need to see something that may reinforce these thoughts and behaviours.
From the viewpoint of someone without an eating disorder, I think it helps show that eating disorders are so much more than just about the food. There is a large psychological component to them that won't go away by "just eating". I don't feel it did enough to show this part though. Because it's a movie, there's a time constraint to showing everything but I don't feel they focused on the right things at times.
There was one family therapy session and one field trip and that's all that was shown of the very hard work clients go through during treatment. They also showed the dining room and this is where I had a lot of trouble with the movie. The policy of the treatment centre was that the clients could eat whatever they wanted as long as they stay seated at the table. They showed clients eating from tubs of peanut butter, and picking at their food and making all sorts of comments about the food. This is not only unrealistic in a treatment centre but it also does not show that part of treatment is to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food while working through the psychological issues. They go hand-in-hand. You cannot work on one without the other.
Lastly, I found that we really only see the main character's struggle with anorexia nervosa but we never see how the other characters in the movie struggle with their symptoms and how different diagnoses, different body types, and people of all ages can have an eating disorder. We also don't get to see the main character go through treatment once she's motivated to get better. It's a very different scene when a person is in treatment to get better vs. when they are forced into treatment. It would have been nice to see that and reassure the viewers that with a lot of work and the right motivation, people can recover.
So, my final thoughts are that it is an interesting movie for those who don't have much experience with eating disorders and I am happy that there are now conversations out there about the illness and its treatment (or lack thereof). However, for anyone who has an eating disorder, I recommend not seeing this movie as I think it will do more harm than good.
The reality: it's very hard to capture an eating disorder in a 2 hour movie but there are different things that could have been shown and focused on more. I also am very angry that they made the main character lose weight for the role. This, in my opinion, is never ok! Does this not defeat the purpose of the message of this movie???? For that alone I give this movie a NAY!
What are your thoughts?? Let's talk about it!