A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this documentary, although rated for mature audiences, should be required viewing for girls who've ever had a brush with an eating disorder (or who have friends who have). That said, you must watch with your kids. There's too much anguish and illness here to let them make sense of it alone. Fourteen may seem young, but waiting for a child to be of legal age could be too late. The film is a gripping, no-holds-barred 102 minutes of brutally honest footage about anorexia and bulemia and the psychological and physical consequences of both. The women portrayed are filled with mental anguish, there's talk of suicide, shots of purging, stomach tubes, and honest and intimate discussions (some laced with profanity). CAUTION: Tips on how to binge, purge, and avoid eating are discussed in the movie. While some people might feel that these tips will teach girls (or boys) how to be bulemic or anorexic, the truth is that motivated kids will find them out anyway, and it's important for families to know the warning signs to break past any denial they may have about their children's illness.
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What's the story?
THIN opens with a couple of gripping statistics: Eating disorders affect 5 million people in the United States, and more than 10 percent of those diagnosed with anorexia nervosa will die from the disease. Director Lauren Greenfield lived at the Renfrew Center for six months, gaining access to and earning the trust of both patients and staff. Cameras follow four women between the ages of 15 and 30 who are literally dying to be thin. In the course of telling their stories, the film teaches viewers about the psychology, pathology, and medical consequences of eating disorders. Brittany is a 15-year-old whose eating disorder began when she was 8. Shelly, 25, has a feeding tube put in her stomach when she enters Renfrew after several hospitalizations. Alisa, 30, a divorced mother of two, arrives at Renfrew following five hospital stays in three months. And Polly, 29, has spent years in and out of treatment and often challenges the center's policies and procedures. Theirs is an agonizing story, beginning with 5 a.m. weigh-ins and moving on to struggles with meals, therapy sessions, and group encounters. As the women's lives unfold on camera, a mosaic forms of the compulsion, the denial, and the horrible psychological toll anorexia exacts. Although each woman's fight for recovery is unique, Greenfield paints a cumulative portrait of the disease's hallmarks -- shame, dishonesty, secrecy, and ambivalence about recovery. Some of the women sabotage their own treatment, while others make significant strides. Some will make progress, only to relapse. And still others find their recovery thwarted by insurance companies who won't cover the long-term care they require.
Is it any good?
Unflinching and incisive, Thin is an emotional journey through the world of eating disorders that provides a greater understanding of their complexity. It encompasses not just issues about food, body image, and self-esteem, but also a mix of personal, familial, cultural, and mental health concerns. It is an unparalleled portrayal of women caught in the grips of a compulsive disease for which they would be willing to die. The film won the best feature-length documentary award at the London Film Festival and competed in the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the nature and toll of eating disorders. What starts them? What are the women feeling? Have your kids ever felt that way? Do they know people who have? Ask your kids if they know people who are already bingeing and purging or starving themselves. If they do, have they told anyone? If not, why? What role does shame play? Powerlessness? And how does the secret nature of the behavior affect the women in the movie? Can your kids make the connection between keeping secrets, covering for friends, and the nature of this hidden disease? Do your children understand the pressures to be thin in this society? Have they ever felt that they were too fat? What did they do about it? What about your own behavior? What are you modeling for your children? For more discussion points, go to the HBO site to download the Thin discussion guide.
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