DIRECTOR: Julia Ducournau
WRITER: Julia Ducournau
Rabah Nait Oufella
Justine is a young woman who is going to veterinarian school. When she gets to the school, she has to undergo several hazing rituals that require her to be put through her paces to see if she is able to handle the hardships of veterinarian school. When she is made to eat meat after being vegetarian her entire life, it awakens her blood lust for human flesh. She must control this new hunger but does this run deeper in her lineage than just a sudden urge?
I remember hearing about Raw in May of 2016 when it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. The buzz for the movie was overwhelmingly positive. The movie was said to be a disturbing look at a young woman who discovers that she is, in fact, a cannibal. From the early previews, the movie looked very weird but visually stunning and well acted. I was really excited to see the film. Now a year later, I finally got to see Raw and what an experience.
From the opening scene of Raw, I was immediately hooked. We see a young woman walking down an empty, tree-lined country road. As a car approaches, she jumps out in front of it, causing this car to crash into a tree to avoid her. The scene is incredibly jarring as well as intense and sets the tone for the rest of this incredibly dark movie. This was utterly unnerving from that very first moment, and it stayed that way for the duration of the running time of Raw.
Once Justine arrives at veterinarian school, things go from bad to worse. Raw is like this slow descent into madness. We watch as this somewhat shy and reserved woman who is also a vegetarian goes from not eating meat to craving human flesh. The film handles Justine being conflicted with her sudden interest in cannibalism very well. At times, I was uncomfortable and uneasy whenever we saw Justine start to give into her bloodlust. We never knew where things would go when she started to fall victim to her craving.
Having the film set in veterinarian school also lends this movie a morbid but vibrant beauty. At times, this feels like a high-school movie with all the hazings, the endless parties, the pranks, the drinking, the premarital sex, the experimentation. I thought these scenes were also a lot of fun and gave this somewhat disturbingly dark tale of cannibalism a bit of levity. This movie does go to some extremely dark places, and I thought these scenes counterbalanced a lot of the darker subject matter.
Where Raw had me really invested was the relationships between Justine, her sister, and her gay dorm mate. I thought the relationships in this movie were all fantastic. I cared for every single one of the main three characters even if I didn't agree with all the subject matter on a moral level. I really enjoyed the fact that the film dealt with these two sisters who both suffer from this hunger for human flesh. At times, there clashing had me on the edge of my seat. A scene towards the end in front of their fellow students is brutal.
The one moment in Raw that really got to me and actually had me frustrated is when the gay character ends up sleeping with Justine. He does freak out later on and puts her on blast in front of everyone when she tries to make sense of the night that they spent together, but I really found this scene to take away instead of add to the story. I know they did this to set up the friendship between Adrian and Justine who has a tight relationship with her sister, and it will come back to haunt both of them in the third act, but it seemed so comfortable for this guy to just sleep with her even if he spends most of the movie with men.
Visually, I found Raw to be gorgeous. The cinematography is stunning in this movie. I found every scene in this film to have this unusual beauty to it. The film is vibrant all the way through. I think due to the heavy themes, you'd expect this to be extremely dark in tone and while a lot of the themes really do disturb, I think this film's use of colour is excellent. Julia Ducournau is up there visually with fellow French filmmaker Gaspar Noe when mixing visuals and colours into their dark storytelling. That's what I got from this film on a visual level.
When it comes to the horror elements, Raw really got under my skin. Hearing early reports of people fainting and throwing up during early screenings is a pretty solid marketing tactic. While it may be true, I find it hard to believe when most of these reports come out of screenings. Raw never really got to that place for me personally, but this still had some genuinely gruesome moments. A moment involving scissors, wax strips and a woman's anatomy had me almost wincing. A few scenes involving dead animals being cut open also looked incredibly realistic. The makeup and gore effects are standout in this one.
Lastly, the acting in this film is deserving of award nominations. This is the first time I've witnessed actress Garance Marillier, and she is phenomenal as Justine. Some of the things that she does in this movie I would consider brave. Ella Rumpf as Justine's sister Alexia is fantastic. I loved that her character was merely cool and as she slowly reveals herself, she becomes the almost-villain of the film. I didn't know if I should love or hate her and Rabah Nait Oufella as Adrian was my favourite. I guess I could relate to him on a level more so than the two sisters. I thought his performance was conflicted and I really felt for him the most.
DEATH TOLL: 4
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A woman drinks blood from a car crash victim's head wound.
- A dissected horse is shown.
- A dead dog is cut open.
- A woman bites into a raw chicken breast.
- A woman vomits up hair.
- A woman pulls her entire arm out of a cows arse.
- Two men are killed in a car crash.
- A man's thigh is shown to be half eaten.
- A chunk of a woman's cheek is bitten off.
- An entire class of students is drenched in horses blood.
- A girl is forced to eat a rabbit's kidney.
- A woman is shown dead on a stretcher after a car crash.
- A woman's finger is cut off with a pair of scissors.
- Close up of a woman licking a guys eyeball.
- A girl is covered in bloody rashes.
- A woman eats her sister's severed finger.
- A woman bites a man's lip and eats the chunk of flesh.
- A woman chews on her own arm during sex.
- Two sisters bite each other's arms.
I'm still thinking about Raw a week after watching it, and I think that is a clear sign of how much I enjoyed it. Raw delivers award-winning performances and is so morbidly beautiful to watch. I was completely invested in the characters. The movie managed to get under my skin. It's gruesome and violent. To say that this film is an enjoyable experience is the wrong thing to say but to say I was completely taken by it and put under its disturbing spell is the best thing I can say about Raw. A stunning debut from Julia Ducournau.