February 1, 2007
Reviewer: Erin Donovan
Rating (out of 5): ****
The American food industry spends billions of dollars each year in advertising, lobbying and creating counter-agencies to release half-baked, obfuscating "research" convincing the public they're addressing health concerns. Another consortium of doom and loathing, the diet industry, makes possibly just as many billions in profits plying us with their programs, pills and elective surgeries. Meanwhile models are dropping dead on the runway while an indifferent fashion industry bickers over who will get the television rights. It's almost a wonder that anyone in this country has a healthy relationship with food or their body.
Enter Lauren Greenfield, a photojournalist and chronicler of girls and girl culture. With THIN she brings her fly-on-the-wall perspective to Renfrew, an in-patient eating disorder treatment facility. The film premiered at last year's Sundance film festival and follows four patients through their recovery. They're an atypical assortment: a 15-year-old red-headed goth girl; a bawdy Southern woman; a nurse who had been stealing anti-depressants; and a mother of two who fought in the first Gulf War.
The film follows their daily life through the mundane (hours wiled away between therapy sessions gossiping and smoking), emotional dredgerous (family therapy sessions, art therapy sessions, group therapy sessions, team therapy sessions, etc.) and the clinical humiliations (physical examinations administered several times a day to check for signs of cutting or purging).
The real conflict that emerges though is the financial crisis a disease like anorexia causes for patients and their families. It's said that severe anorexia can take 3-7 years to cure but most health insurance programs will only cover 3 weeks. And at an average cost of $2,000/day all of the patients at Renfrew experience several economic disasters trying to piece together coverage and family loans and still most are forced to leave once they've reached a baseline standard of weight or mental competence. With such spotty access to treatment it's not surprising that almost all of the women in Renfrew have relapsed several times. And still it's painfully obvious that even the people lucky enough to get not enough treatment or all white and middle-class.
Ultimately THIN is a deeply engaging introduction to the drastic lengths eating disorder patients go through to gain control of their lives over their disease, and eventually on to recovery.