Is To The Bone the new 13 Reasons for controversy?

Earlier this year, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, a teen drama about suicide, was criticised for its alleged glamorisation of its delicate and harrowing subject matter. So is new production, To The Bone, of the same divisive persuasion?

Starring Lily Collins, To The Bone is a Netflix original movie released in mid-July and tackles the story of Ellen (Collins) who is living with anorexia. The film sees the character explore her attempts to deal with the illness after meeting a quirky, unconventional doctor (Keanu Reeves).

The issue some people have is the supposed glamorising of the disease in its trailer.

Check it out and see what you think. Warning: The trailer is NSFW.

It’s easy to see the concerns people have with this.

The trailer initially gives viewers a jaunty, fun look at someone dealing with anorexia – an illness that is anything but.

The problem is that it uses whimsy to push a comedy-drama vibe. However, it switches its tone to a more serious and devastating approach that seems to tackle eating disorders in an engaging way, but it’s impossible to discuss its effectiveness without having seen the movie.

One thing I took, by the end of the trailer at least, is that is felt inspiring. If it can maintain a heartfelt and raw focus rather than portray itself as a fluffy comedy then it has the power to educate and ultimately inspire.

Yet it sort of feels like the next 13 Reasons Why. While that show was a compelling and engaging story that unfolded over 13 episodes of character driven scripting, it too was heavily criticised.

Dylan Minnette as Clay in 13 Reasons Why. (Photo: Netflix)
Clay Jensen in 13 Reasons Why. Credit: Netflix

The series was accused of also glamorising suicide but it also communicated a number of controversial and disturbing messages, such as the idea that Hannah was able to project culpability and enormous guilt onto a number of people around her who had contributed from the most minor to major things that resulted in her taking her life.

Mental health experts have spoken out about how To The Bone could trigger sufferers and there’s a worry from some that the film promotes eating disorders, especially with a popular, relatable lead in Collins who comes across as a bit of a loner type that is struggling her way through life.

But the most concerning thing about the production is that, despite Collins suffering from an eating disorder in her teens and wanting to tell a story, is how she actually lost weight for the role. Personally, that’s something I’m against, even if it is under medical supervision (as the below video explains).

Keanu Reeves and Lily Collins. Credit: Netflix
Keanu Reeves and Lily Collins. Credit: Netflix

The whole weight loss and gain debate is best left for another time, and while seeing Christian Bale go from a skeletal frame in The Machinist to broad and beefed up for Batman is a stark contrast, Collins’s transformation from an already slender figure feels a little dangerous.

Some viewers may pick up on an appeal to starving oneself, but should its director, Marti Noxon, handle the subject matter with care then such criticism will be swiftly forgotten.

The first-time feature director had this to say on Twitter after the backlash, explaining her reasons and sharing some context to the film’s subject matter:

Noxon makes some very fair, valid points explaining her decisions and commitment to never exploit the subject matter. With that in mind, perhaps we should give the movie the benefit of the doubt until we’ve all had chance to see it.

To The Bone is available to stream on Netflix from 14 July.

Do you plan to watch this? Does To The Bone and 13 Reasons Why glamorise real, serious issues? Share your thoughts below…