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Netflix Cinema: To The Bone

by on September 1, 2017
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In the “Netflix Cinema” series, Logan Sowash takes a look at the films that have been released under the Netflix Original Films moniker.

Marti Noxon’s “To the Bone” came out at an odd time for Netflix. Despite the film being released in mid-July, the company was still coming under fire after the controversy surrounding the release of the television show “13 Reasons Why” in March. As a result, “To The Bone” ended up getting lumped in with the show since both deal with very serious topics (“To the Bone” dealing with anorexia while “13 Reasons Why” deals with teenage suicide). It was being criticized even before anyone saw it. This was incredibly frustrating for me because it was so undeserved. Now that I’ve finally see it, I’m even more frustrated with the criticism before the film’s release because as an actual film, it’s pretty damn great.

Let’s start with the premise: Ellen, a pessimistic girl in her early 20s (played by Lily Collins), is dealing with anorexia. After being kicked out of another treatment center, her family decides that maybe a more unconventional route might be the best solution. This unconventional route ends up being a house filled with six other eating disorder patients led by Keanu Reeves’ Dr. Beckham. It leads Ellen to reflect on her life, her choices and what she really wants for herself. Despite not dealing with anorexia myself, I found the premise to be very relatable and engaging all the way through.

The cast is really good. Collins is great as Ellen, Reeves is a blast every time he’s onscreen, Alex Sharp’s performance as Luke was both hilarious and emotional, and it’s always great to see Retta (Donna Meagle from “Parks and Recreation”) in anything. The remainder of the cast does a great job with what they’re given, creating a film that really has no weak links in the acting department. Nothing Oscar-worthy but, on the flip side, nothing bad either.

What really stuck out to me though was the handling of the subject matter. Every time I saw Collins’ unhealthily skinny body, I shivered and got a bit squeamish. The film doesn’t shy away from the horrors of anorexia and while I never enjoyed seeing the physical repercussions of the disorder, I appreciated Noxon’s dedication to authenticity. Her writing and directing keeps the film from feeling exploitative or preachy, something that could’ve benefited the writing of “13 Reasons Why.” The film is also really funny at times, throwing out good jokes here and there that really deflate some of the tension you feel as you see Ellen fight her disorder.

Despite all the good the films brings to the table, it’s not perfect. The biggest problem the film has is the third act. It feels short and anticlimactic compared to the previous acts, almost as if the film was trying its best to not hit the two-hour mark. This leads to some emotional arcs either getting cut short or being unresolved. Don’t get me wrong: The film still has a really good ending. It just could’ve been perfect had the film let the final act go for another 15 or so minutes which, with its smooth pacing, would’ve felt like nothing.

Overall, “To the Bone” is a great Netflix Original film. It’s definitely hard to watch at times but with this kind of subject matter, it’s expected. Its great cast and pacing keep this film interesting from start to finish. It’s a great recent example of how Netflix can put their money into something that’s just as good as something in theaters now. With the public’s reaction to films like “Death Note” and “War Machine,” they need desperately something like that.

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