Raw (2016, Julia Ducournau) Review
Starring: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
Raw concerns Justine, a 16 year old gifted teen who is ready to take on her first year in vet school, where her older sister also studies. She is a vegetarian, and has all her life been applying to her rules. Once she gets in school, hazing starts right away where she is forced to eat raw rabbit meat. After, unexpected consequences emerge as her true self begins to form.
Raw is marketed as a cannibalism horror movie, where its gimmick comes from people fainting during screenings of this at movie festivals. I can see how certain expectations can ruin this movie for someone, as this truly isn’t a horror movie. It is a drama, a coming of age story about a young veterinarian student who undergoes an identity crises and a sexual awakening. It examines addiction and how an abuse of addiction can lead to a thorough change of character, enslaved by the horrors of obsession. It is also a story of two sisters and the bond they create, exhibiting personal development as they support each other through their trials throughout the film. It studies all of these complex themes, and looks at it with an additional “what if?” concept of cannibalism. It is definitely a ridiculous set-up, but it somehow works here.
It might get a little bit silly if looked at literally, but the film challenges the viewer to look at life with a unique set of lens, as some events portrayed at this film are truly outlandish. That’s where it gets its appeal, for me at least, though. The story, on the surface, is seen as a woman who has a sudden craving for raw meat, but beneath that are layers and layers of labyrinthine ideas of change and, essentially, growing up. One can view the cannibalistic aspects as a huge metaphor for all its contexts, and that’s also a certain way of mindset at going about the film. That’s what’s so great about the film; it is profound enough to provoke multiple interpretations from the viewer.
The rest of the film is stellar. The actors are fantastic. Garance Marillier as the lead does a good job of character transformation, from subtle acts to actual cannibalistic performances. Ella Rumpf as her sister may be a supporting character, but she steals all the scenes that she is in. The score used is spectacular and strangely fitting to some of the film’s more brutal scenes. The narrative is fairly simple enough to follow, but what really separates this film from all other dramas is how utterly original it is in how it faces its problems and themes. That’s the selling point for me.
Raw is a terrific film. It is profound, and not at all the cannibalistic horror movie the masses were expecting. Everything about it is fantastic, from the actors, to the score, to its themes, and to the character’s personal transformation from start to finish. I can see how this won’t be for some people, but for those who can stomach grotesque scenes, Raw is worth a look. It is a story of humanity seen through the narrative of a cannibalistic woman, and the result is multilayered and at times, metaphysical.