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To the Bone: Netflix Targets Mental Illness

MaryBeth Monaco-Vavrik, '19, Staff Writer

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Netflix can be counted on to produce a wide array of documentaries, feel-good movies, horror films, and binge-worthy shows. Out of this selection on July 14th came the Netflix Original, To the Bone, a movie that follows a young woman, Ellen, portrayed by Lily Collins, as she battles anorexia nervosa and bounces from recovery center to recovery center. Ellen is pushed by her stepmother and stepsister to try a new form of rehabilitation after finding no success in her previous inpatient program. To the Bone touches on a number of issues besides anorexia such as family relationships, LGBTQ+, and addiction.

Mental health is still uncomfortable for some people to talk about, and eating disorders are no exception. Netflix made a bold move centering an entire film around a specific, devastating mental disorder. The way in which this movie goes about exploring the thoughts and feelings of a person suffering from a life-threatening illness such as anorexia opens the viewer’s eyes to the real debilitating nature of this disease, as well as the crippling nature it has on the victim’s family. To the Bone tries its best to handle such a sensitive topic with grace as well as painful truth. I’m not going to lie, this movie was pretty depressing, and in that aspect, I believe it was truthful. Nowadays, it feels as if mental illness is painted as temporary– a slight hiccup in a person’s life. In movies, it seems more often than not that our protagonist overcomes whatever is troubling them by the end of the movie, and a happy ending ensues as they realize they have a future and continue on with their lives. Don’t get me wrong, many people do find that there is a fix to their mental illness without too much catastrophe, but to a large unrepresented group, To the Bone provides a soft-spoken voice.

This movie taught me lots of things, much of what I already knew; families are messed up, society is oppressive, and everybody will have something negative to say about you, but this movie also taught me about things I’ve never even given much thought, such as the thought process of a victim with an eating disorder, or the collective thoughts of a group of people who share a mental illness.

To the Bone may be quiet in cover art and in title, but the message it has for eating disorder survivors, mental illness victims, and even just people bored on a July evening such as myself, is unabashedly loud. To a society that seems as if it has turned its back on a community that is hurting, that is unrepresented, To the Bone, reassures them that somebody is listening.

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To the Bone: Netflix Targets Mental Illness