What bones are made of
– Mathangi Mahesh Kumar, III year B.A. English
When was the last time you laughed out loud and still bawled your eyes out through a movie about Anorexia and felt liberated at the end of it?
Probably never, right?
‘To The Bone’ is a movie about twenty year old Ellen who can tell you the exact number of calories in her food, who smokes like a chimney and chews her food only to spit it back out into a napkin. She has an absent father, an over indulgent step mother, a lesbian mother and a step sister for a best friend.
This isn’t your intense clichéd drama movie about a woman who starves herself and eventually gets over it during the course of a peppy song. No. The main plot is about Ellen and her struggle to find stability – something she has never found in her dysfunctional family or through her art. Ellen’s depression is not the curl-up-into-a-ball-and-wallow-in-sadness type; It is raw, real and comes out through her cynical humor, pessimistic view of life and is also physically reflected in her body.
While Anorexia is commonly treated as a physical disability, the movie chooses to be different and perceives it as a mental illness with a physical manifestation. The movie retains the echoes of the psychological trauma that Anorexic individuals undergo: What does one do when starving yourself is an addiction that you cannot break free of?
“Coward” is what Luke, a fellow in patient, calls Ellen when she refuses to eat even a tiny piece of chocolate. In a manner, the movie also reflects Ellen’s pursuit of courage to break free of her addiction. The idea of possessing an Identity and more importantly, the yearning to possess one are also two overlapping themes that provide a loose backdrop to Ellen’s fight against Anorexia. Ellen harbors the illusion that there is light at the end of the tunnel: a focal point that would provide purpose to her existence. She tries to find this purpose through her art but gives it up when it leads to the suicide of a young woman. She constantly finds herself at a cross roads where walking down ‘Giving Up’ street, towards the end, feels easier.
As an individual without eating disorders, it is impossible to imagine that chewing, the most natural and mundane of human activities, could ever be a difficult task that takes tremendous effort. But when one sees Lilly Collins refusing to even nibble on chocolate, it is as real and heartbreaking as it gets.
While on the subject of Collins, who struggled with eating disorders herself, one has to marvel at the manner in which she brings Ellen to life. Ellen’s cyclical humor and spontaneous anger aren’t the only aspects she captures with ease; she also embraces the reality of this character: pale skin, skinny bones, baggy clothes and baggier eyes. Collins’ physical transformation to fit the role of an undernourished girl fighting against an eating disorder and her identity crisis does not go unnoticed. While on screen, Collins makes you forget that the person is a celebrity, but just a woman, with just as much flesh and bone as the next person, with a dark cloud hanging over her head.
Real, with a sprinkle of laughter and a dash of sniffly tears to the side, is what I have to say about this movie.
So the next time you are in the mood for something emotionally taxing yet absolutely lovely, grab your tissues and get straight to the bone of things.