To the Bone is a 2017 American drama film, written and directed by Marti Noxon. The film stars Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Lili Taylor, Alex Sharp, Liana Liberato, Brooke Smith, and Ciara Bravo. The film follows a young woman (Ellen) as she battles anorexia. The film premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2017, as a contender in the U.S. Dramatic Competiton. It was released worldwide on Netflix on July 14, 2017.
Ellen is a 20 year old college dropout who returns home to the house of her stepmother and father after struggling through an inpatient program and failing to make any progress. With her absentee father unwilling to deal with her, Ellen's stepmother, Susan, sets her up with a specialist, Dr. William Beckham, who insists that Ellen join his inpatient program. Ellen is reluctant to do so, but her mind is changed by her younger sister.
Ellen moves into the house with six other patients that include five young women and Luke, an upbeat ballet dancer, who is near recovery on both his anorexia and a knee injury. Luke acts as a moral cheerleader for the other patients and takes a special interest in Ellen, eventually revealing that he is a fan of Ellen's art.
At a family therapy session with Beckham, Ellen's father fails to show up. It is revealed that until eighteen months earlier, Ellen was living with her mother, who abandoned her to move to Phoenix, Arizona, and also that the artwork she posted on Tumblr was cited as an influence by a girl who later killed herself. Ellen promises to try to do better, but instead continues to lose weight.
Ellen makes headway, changing her name to Eli and bonding with the other members of the house. She is surprised, however, when Luke kisses her and admits he is starting to fall in love with her. She panics and quickly rejects him. Later on, she learns that Megan, another woman in the house who was pregnant, miscarried her baby, having resumed her purging after reaching the twelve week mark and believing it was safe. The event sends Eli into a tailspin, and she decides to run away. On her way out, Luke begs her to stay, telling her that he needs her as he realizes that his knee condition is permanent and he will never be able to properly dance again and needs something new to focus on. Eli leaves anyway.
Near death, Eli goes to her mother's home. That night, her mother expresses guilt for the postpartum depression she had after giving birth to Ellen and suggests that she might try feeding Eli with a bottle while rocking her to help solve both their issues. Eli finds the idea strange, but after her mother tells her that she accepts if she chooses death, she decides to go along with the idea and allows herself to be rocked while her mother feeds her rice milk from a bottle.
After eating, Eli goes for a walk at night. Passing out, she hallucinates that she is in a tree where she kisses Luke, who reveals to her how sick she is. He gives her a piece of coal that is her courage, and she swallows it.
Waking up from her dream, Eli decides to return home. She embraces her stepmother and her sister before continuing on to Beckham's inpatient program.
In March 2016, it was announced that Lily Collins had been cast in a leading role in an anorexia drama film titled To the Bone, written and directed by Marti Noxon, based on Noxon's early battle with the eating disorder. The film marks Noxon's feature directorial debut Later that month, Keanu Reeves joined the cast, portraying the role of a doctor. On March 29, Carrie Preston was cast as Collins' character's stepmother. AMBI Group was later reported to be co-producing and financing the picture. In early April, it was reported that Lili Taylor, Alex Sharp, Brooke Smith, and Liana Liberato had joined the cast of the film in unknown roles. On April 11, Ciara Bravo was cast in the supporting role of Tracy, a young girl also suffering from an eating disorder.
The film held its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2017. It was featured as a contender in the U.S. Dramatic Competiton. In 2017, Netflix acquired distribution rights to the film and was released worldwide on July 14, 2017.
To the Bone currently holds an 68% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 48 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "To the Bone offers an insightful, empathetic look at a widespread issue, led by exemplary work from Lily Collins in the central role." Metacritic gives the film an average score of 64 out of 100 based 14 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Justin Chang of The Los Angeles Times wrote that the film was "part character study, part PSA" and that it "chronicles a brief but meaningful period in its protagonist’s healing journey." Chang said of Lily Collins performance, "In a different film, Ellen’s sharp tongue might have made her an insufferable fount of wisecracking negativity, but Collins’ performance is subtler than that, and the script gives her ample opportunity to reveal the character’s more complicated, vulnerable edges."