To the Bone

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
To the Bone Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Compelling but mature drama about eating disorders.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 107 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 12 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

People are challenged to make life-saving changes in the worst circumstances. In spite of past behavior and/or others' negative conduct, each character must ask, "How do I want to live?" Focuses on eating disorders as more a problem of the soul than the body. Themes include compassion, empathy, and perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character, who has an eating disorder, is encouraged to find the will to live. She learns that no one can be healed if they're resistant to being helped. Those in support of characters who are working through serious issues are asked to be unselfish, loyal, and clearheaded. Professionals charged with caring for people in crisis are shown to be responsible, determined, and compassionate. Most family members are portrayed as people who, despite their intentions, put their own emotional needs first -- but they seem to learn something about what their roles and conduct should be by the end of the movie. Father has distanced himself from his daughter. Diversity within the cast.


Disturbing scenes include -- spoiler alert -- a character's bruises (self-inflicted by overexercising), fainting in a public space, and someone shown struggling to survive in a desert. A young woman is shown on a bathroom floor after a bloody miscarriage. References to suicide.


Kissing and embracing. Frank sexual talk includes reference to masturbation, orgasm. A young woman is nude; no graphic nudity. Women shown in bras and panties.


Frequent cursing, profanity, insults, and body references, including "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "grow a pair," "balls," "Jesus Christ," "crap," "retarded," "p---y," "vagina," "boogers." 


Mega Gulp, Tsing Tao beer, Tumblr.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Young man and woman drink beer. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that To the Bone follows Ellen (Lily Collins), a 20-year-old woman with an eating disorder, as she embarks on an uncertain and difficult journey toward recovery. It's not easy to watch; many intense, disturbing scenes show Ellen's struggles with food and body image, as well as those of others who are forced to confront their illnesses. Language is strong, including "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," and more. Characters kiss, cuddle, and have frank conversations about sex (expect references to orgasms, masturbation, and the like). There's also nonsexual nudity related to the main character's continuing health issues. Two scenes include underage drinking and cigarette smoking. Writer-director Marti Noxon tackles a very sensitive issue with the honesty and authenticity that come from having been there herself. While it's clear that her intentions aren't exploitative, there has been concern (some based on the movie's trailer) about the film's possible stereotyping or triggering of negative behavior among those with eating disorders. But rest assured that the movie has thoughtful messages about finding joy and beauty in life, discovering value in ourselves, and learning to survive the bad things that inevitably happen to everyone. It also promotes compassion, empathy, and perseverance.


User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAmelia P. September 4, 2020

Triggering movie

Truly great movie. In my opinion it shows that no one ever recovers so if you were looking for inspiration to recover DONT WATCH. It’s a triggering movie. Makes... Continue reading
Adult Written byPhocine13 August 30, 2018

Terrible recovery model

The central message of this movie is that people with eating disorders will get better when they decide to get better and that letting them hit "rock botto... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bycatching_fire February 4, 2019

Graphic and Triggering

I saw a bit of it on Netflix on impulse. Big mistake.

There is graphic emaciation of the main character. There is foul language throughout and at the beginning... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bymimimacbeth September 20, 2018

The same cliches we've had for the past five years

It's as if every single movie about eating disorders is the same: a white, skinny, perfectionist with a superiority complex falls in love with an equally w... Continue reading

What's the story?

Ellen (Lily Collins) hasn't responded to several rounds of intense rehab to help with her anorexia in TO THE BONE. While well-intentioned, Ellen's family -- including mom Judy (Lili Taylor), stepmom Susan (Carrie Preston), and Olive (Brooke Smith), her mother's partner -- proves ineffectual, actually managing to make matters worse, since each has issues that affect everyone's behavior. Only Ellen's half-sister, Kelly (Liana Liberato), seems to connect with the troubled young woman. A referral to Threshold, an in-patient facility for eating disorders that's headed by the unconventional Dr. William Beckham (Keanu Reeves), may be Ellen's last hope. She arrives with a chip on her shoulder and in a physical condition that's clearly fragile. Ellen firmly believes that she cannot eat and that she cannot change or succeed. It's a staggering challenge. And her housemates, including British dancer Lucas (Alex Sharp), are equally at risk. What follows, for Ellen and all those who interact with her, is a precarious journey, with both missteps and small victories that ultimately reveal the resilience of the human spirit.

Is it any good?

Despite its controversial subject matter, Marti Noxon's drama is a moving, believable film made with earnestness, sensitivity, and skill, as well as riveting performances. Candid, painful scenes are intercut with moments of sharp-edged humor and touching romance. Over the course of To the Bone, a largely dysfunctional family is treated with compassion rather than ridicule.

Given that both Noxon and Collins have acknowledged past histories of eating disorders, it’s clear that their intention is to bring authenticity and insight to the subject. To the Bone is a well-made film that should find a wide audience, encouraging empathy and compassion for Ellen and others who face similar challenges.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the nature and toll of eating disorders. What starts them? Ask teens if they know people struggling with these issues. If they do, have they told anyone? If not, why? Is To the Bone an accurate portrayal?  What resources can you use if you or someone you know has an eating disorder? 

  • Writer-director Marti Noxon has said that "[e]ating disorders are problems not of the body but of the soul." Do you agree with her? Why, or why not? Do you think she succeeds in presenting this point of view in To the Bone?

  • Were you surprised that Lucas had an eating disorder? How does that challenge commonly held stereotypes about those who suffer from eating disorders? Does the media have the responsibility to question stereotypes like these?

  • How would you describe Ellen's ultimate goal? Does the movie say clearly whether she is/will get there? Which character traits must she call on to achieve it? How does the movie emphasize the importance of compassion, empathy, and perseverance?

  • Which characters are role models in this movie, and why? Do characters have to be "perfect" to be role models?

Movie details

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