Easily one of the most controversial films of the past year, Raw has become an instant classic of modern European cinema.
With heavy emphasis on supposed fainting audience members in the marketing campaign, Raw was always going to gain vast exposure, whether people ended up finding it too disturbing or disappointing. The good news? We certainly weren’t disappointed.
Directed by Julia Ducournau, Raw follows Justine, a teenager raised in a family of vegetarians who is starting her first year at veterinary college, which her sister also attends and her parents in the past. During her first night, she is roped into a brutal hazing ritual involving all-nighters, debauchery and being forced to eat raw meat, and with a desperate need to fit in and follow in her family’s footsteps, she obliges. Upon eating the raw flesh, she soon finds she has developed an uncontrollable craving for it.
Raw is a coming of age movie like no other. Whilst on the surface it plays like a young woman discovering her taste for cannibalism, deep down it delves into the struggles of finding your own identity when moving into adulthood and away from the parental home. Between each grotesque scene of violence and gore you will find amusing and relatable anecdotes, common in the social growth of many young women. Justine is discovering things many may remember from that age. The violence of the movie plays well into the sexual and emotional awakening of young womanhood, but it also separates her from the rest of her peers, heightening Justine’s sense of loneliness as she struggles to find her way.
Many comparisons have been made between this film and the likes of body-horror veteran David Cronenberg‘s body of work, and of Stephen King’s Carrie, and we believe that a further comparison can be drawn between that of the questionable but notable film Teeth (2007). The forced sexual awakening upon the discovery of her body’s desires and capabilities sends Justine on a downward spiral, yes, but it also sends fear into those who may encounter her. Whereas Teeth was a bit more obvious in its approach, the ideology is virtually mirrored in Raw. She punishes those who force themselves upon her with visible, physical consequences, giving feminism a cannibalistic push into the ether – maybe providing the feminist film needed in the current climate and turmoil of the entertainment industry.
We’ve found that, especially in recent years, the actors in European cinema offer nothing less than complete sincerity – and Raw is no different. The performances are understated and well-executed, and Garance Marillier is fantastic in her role as Justine. She holds a certain youthfulness to her which makes the violence so much harder to watch. Ella Rumpf is equally as impressive as Justine’s older and more streetwise sister Alexia, and the relationship between the two on screen is so blindingly convincing that the last act of the film becomes more far more shocking than if it had been portrayed by anyone else.
We give Raw 4 stars for being an almost perfect movie. Almost perfect in that it ticks all the right boxes, but Justine’s transformation does feel ever so slightly rushed. It is not a film for everyone, especially those with a weak disposition – but if you’re a horror and gore fan, this is definite watch.
Raw is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.