New Netflix film about anorexia divides eating disorder activists

A still from To the Bone

A new Netflix film, which tells the story of a woman who has anorexia, is dividing opinion.

To The Bone comes out on Friday and follows 20-year-old Ellen as she's sent to an unconventional treatment centre.

Some charities are worried it will "glamorise" the eating disorder.

But the film's director Marti Noxon, who recovered from anorexia herself, says she wants it to act as a "conversation starter about an issue that is too often clouded by secrecy".

Ellen is played by Lily Collins - an actress who also struggled with anorexia as a teenager - and had to lose weight for the role.

If you want help with eating disorders, visit BBC Advice.

A still from To the Bone

"When I first heard about the film my initial reaction was caution," says Jennie Aspinall.

She's 26 and is now in recovery after struggling with eating disorders from a young age.

She spoke to Newsbeat after seeing the film's trailer online.

"When I see characters who are behaving in a way that I recognise from my experience, it can trigger memories of a very dark time in my life.

"But also if the characters are listening to the anorexic voices in their heads, then it can bring that voice to the fore in my head and can cause me to have thoughts about starving myself."

A still from To the Bone

She thinks the film has a "fine line" to walk.

"On the one hand it's important to look at the realities of living with an eating disorder and the destructive behaviours people can engage with.

"But I am concerned that if they show too much, then vulnerable people could use this almost as a how-to guide. So even at my stage of recovery I'm going to be really careful about how I watch it and who I watch it with."

A still from To the Bone

And Tom Quinn, from eating disorder charity Beat, thinks that's sound advice.

"We would strongly urge anyone that might be at risk of an eating disorder to think very carefully before watching this film," he tells Newsbeat.

"For example, if there was a reference to a certain low weight, someone that's at risk of an eating disorder might be triggered to try and reach that weight themselves."

But he does add that he's reserving judgement about the film until it's out, describing it as "a creative piece of work".

"It's really important that it doesn't glamorise eating disorders and hopefully the director's background will make sure that doesn't happen," he says.

"That being said - we do not support anyone, particularly someone that has suffered from an eating disorder in the past, being encouraged to lose weight for a part."

A still from To the Bone

The film's director Marti Noxon strongly denies there's any glamour in what she has created.

"Having struggled with anorexia and bulimia well into my 20s, I know first-hand the struggle, isolation and shame a person feels when they are in the grips of this illness," she said in a statement to Newsbeat.

"In an effort to tell this story as responsibly as we could, we spoke with other survivors and worked with [an American charity called] Project Heal throughout production in the hopes of being truthful in a way that wasn't exploitive.

"I hope that by casting a little light into the darkness of this disease, we can achieve greater understanding and guide people to help if they need it."

Watch an interview with Lily Collins where she talks about losing weight for To The Bone.

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