To The Bone
Lily Collins, Keanu Reeves, Alex Sharp
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While To The Bone’s dramatic strength lies in its first-hand immediacy, the meandering tale fails to engage.
Writer/director Marti Noxon draws from personal experience to tell a story about a young woman battling an eating disorder. While To The Bone’s dramatic strength lies in its first-hand immediacy, the meandering tale fails to engage. That’s largely due to Lily Collins’ inscrutable performance as the unlikable main protagonist Ellen – later adopting the name Eli.
After being kicked out of therapy yet again, 20-year-old Ellen joins a purportedly unconventional group therapy home. It’s run by a no-nonsense yet compassionate doctor, played with rugged charm by Keanu Reeves. Ellen briefly impresses with a parlour trick; her eidetic memory for the calorie count of all foods. All the other inhabitants of the home exhibit varying degrees of malfunction, but there are few dramatic moments or profound breakthroughs. The story just ambles along in a banal fashion.
With her gaunt gaze and horrifyingly skeletal frame, Emma’s default mode appears to be that of dispassionate sarcasm. Each of her family members remark on the negative affect her illness has had on them, but Ellen seems unfazed and unmotivated to improve. There’s a dark backstory about Ellen’s illustrated blog being blamed for a reader’s suicide, but even that storyline goes nowhere. Nor do we gain any insight as to why Ellen fell ill, although her father’s frequent inability to show up is suggested as a factor. Above all, Collins never seems to convey authentically the isolation that plagues many who are afflicted with this mental and physical disorder. She effortlessly wins the heart and affections of the only male patient in the house, a British dancer named Luke (Alex Sharp), whose career has been derailed because of a knee injury.
Eventually Ellen/Eli re-forges a bond with her estranged mother (a criminally under-used Lili Taylor) in a ludicrous scene towards the end that is best left undescribed.
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