We asked an expert for her reaction to the film's preview.
It takes about seven seconds to get hooked by the trailer for To The Bone, the forthcoming Netflix film about a young woman’s battle with anorexia. The clip begins with Ellen (played by Lily Collins) rattling off the calorie count for each of the foods on her dinner plate; and her pride in her ability is chilling.
Another scene reveals the bruises on Ellen's back from doing sit-ups. We see her pick at her meal, then tear open a candy bar. "You've got it ... under ... control," Ellen's voice-over chants, until she loses consciousness and falls to the floor.
Ellen's family sends her to a recovery program in a group home for young people, and the remainder of the film's trailer focuses on her recovery.
After the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why got so many people talking about suicide prevention (despite its flaws), we hope To The Bone will similarly raise awareness about eating disorders. And so far, the film seems to have a few things right.
“I was encouraged that they showed some accurate experiences of people with eating disorders seeking treatment and one example was the portrayal of her feeling ambivalent about her recovery,” says Lori Ciotti, site director of The Renfrew Center of Boston, an eating disorder treatment facility. “She didn’t have 100% motivation to get better, and that’s very common for our patients.”
Ciotti also pointed out that based on the trailer, the film could help clear up the misconception that everyone with an eating disorder is severely underweight. Ellen's housemates in her recovery program represent a range of body types. “They didn’t all look like the stereotype," she says. "That's important, because not all patients look the same."
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Collins has said that playing Ellen was a very personal experience for her, since she struggled with eating disorders as a teenager. "This was definitely a more dramatic role for me,” the 28-year-old actress explained in an interview at the Sundance Film Festival in January. “I wrote a book last year and I wrote my chapter on my experiences a week before I got Marti’s script and it was like the universe was putting these things in my sphere, kind of dead on, a fear that I used to have.”
For her role as Ellen, Collins had to lose a significant amount of weight. “It caused me to have to emotionally go there, but in a way that was the most safe, healthy way possible with a nutritionist and really to physically go there but also emotionally and it did require a different set of emotional skills, to kind of go back in time for me, with you know, my experiences,” she said.
Ciotti hopes that Netflix will go an extra step beyond raising awareness, and offer resources for people struggling with an eating disorder. "That way if someone watching connects with something that's happening on the screen, they can seek help,” she says.
Classified as a “dark comedy,” To The Bone will premiere on Netflix on July 14.