A deeply moving debut
Eli literally shrinks away from this truth.
Collins and some of the other actresses are so painfully thin that parts of the film are uncomfortable to watch. It’s also hard to see the young characters so tormented and consumed with body image. One describes a famous (and unquestionably thin) actress as “kind of fat, don’t you think? Like at least a size 6”.
But the story is not all bleak. Noxon, a veteran writer and producer of such TV hits as UnREAL, Mad Men, Glee and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, deftly manages her film’s tone, blending humor and heart without being saccharine or trite. She treats Eli’s struggles seriously but not too earnestly, a delicate balance obviously aided by the loving perspective of personal experience.
The film’s optimism shines through in a magical sequence set inside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Rain Room exhibit. Beckham takes his patients on a field trip there, and their experience of the space where water miraculously rains down from the ceiling but doesn’t get visitors wet is a cinematic metaphor for the delicious thrill of discovery — a perk of being alive.
To the Bone is a beautiful achievement. It illuminates the compulsions and dangers around disordered eating and the struggles of so many teens and adults who channel their concerns and fears about life into hatred of their own bodies. It gives voice to the experience of girls, who are rarely prepared for the onslaught of male attention that comes with puberty and adolescence. It underscores the importance of family, however dysfunctional. It’s a story about the difficulty of being human and the bravery it takes to grow up.