Marti Noxon, director of To the Bone, is glad the criticism over how anorexia is portrayed in the movie is driving a greater conversation

By Julie Mazziotta
July 13, 2017 01:57 PM

The new Netflix film To the Bone still has another day to go before it drops on the streaming service, but the trailer alone has generated plenty of discussion — both celebrating the film and criticizing it for triggering people with eating disorders. But director Marti Noxon isn’t bothered by the accusations — she welcomes it.

“The fact that there’s this much conversation about it already affirms to me that it is an important issue,” Noxon tells PEOPLE. “It’s good that were talking about it before the film even premieres. I encourage people and their different points of view.”

The story, based on Noxon’s own experience with anorexia, follows Ellen, a young woman suffering from the disease as she’s pushed into various recovery programs. Lily Collins, who had her own battle with anorexia and bulimia, took on the main role. Noxon’s goal with the film is to shed a light on eating disorders, a problem that affects over 30 million Americans but typically goes unmentioned.

“I did of course do research about what the current state of affairs is in terms of the eating disorder community, and who’s being affected, and I was surprised to see that something that was, way back when I was in the thick of it, it was typified as a fairly white, middle class, girl problem. And if it was, it really isn’t anymore,” she says. “It crosses all kinds of lines.”

And Noxon wanted to humanize the disease for those who aren’t aware of its affects.

“I hoped that, I could convey through the movie the humanity of these characters, but also how incredibly frustrating and painful it is to go through this, and that it really is life or death,” she says. “Of all the mental illnesses, anorexia has the highest morbidity rate. It’s serious. So the gravity of it, I really tried to convey, but also to create compassion through these characters, by showing them as fully fleshed people.”

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Noxon isn’t sure if people who criticized the trailer will change their mind once they see the full film, but she’s seen it happen.

“I just know that anecdotally some people have,” she says. “There was a young woman at a screening at a college this week who stood up afterwards and said that she had some concerns about watching it, that it made her anxious, but after watching it she was really grateful that someone was telling part of her story. And it didn’t feel to her like how it was portrayed in the trailer told the whole story. We really tried to be as thoughtful about it as possible. It’s just that, by nature for some people, it’s going to be very emotional.”

Noxon suggests that anyone who is concerned about watching the film has a friend or family member try it out first.

“The good thing about Netflix is it’ll always be there! So if you’re on the fence, you always have the option of waiting until you’re in a better place,” she says.

To the Bone premieres on Netflix July 14.