For people with real-life experience with eating disorders, reaction to the movie has also been mixed. A writer for In Style who recently completed a treatment program herself applauded the movie for touching on some of the most important (and frustrating) things about recovery that often don’t get any screen time. Meanwhile, an article in The Guardian, also written by someone with a history of disordered eating, calls To the Bone “shallow, sexist, and sick.”
The film does a lot of things well
Yes, it can be triggering
That doesn’t mean the movie will cause people to relapse, however, and it doesn’t mean that anyone who’s struggling automatically shouldn’t watch it.
It highlights the role of families
The film’s version of therapy is very unconventional
People should not watch this film expecting to learn what typical treatment for an eating disorder is like. The program is referred to as inpatient, but when Ellen shows up she is surprised to find a large residential house. “Inpatient facilities are usually more like hospitals,” says Brennan.
Some of the program’s “rules” will likely raise eyebrows, as well. “The way the meals are done, with the residents sitting around the table without any staff, getting to decide what they want to eat or not eat—that is very atypical of eating-disorder care,” says Brennan.
And while some of Ellen’s housemates have been at the facility for quite some time—six months, in one case—that’s generally not the case for people in inpatient care. “That’s pretty luxurious, and most folks don’t have the resources or the benefits from third-party providers to support that long of a stay,” says Brennan.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start
Brennan says it’s important that the film makes the point that treatment isn’t easy. “It does a good job showing that this is a painful process and that it’s hard to face this thing and manage all these thoughts and emotions.”