When was the last time you went to the movies and left the theater feeling sick, sad, and shocked? Raw left a mark on me that I don’t think is going to go away anytime soon. It is one of the most original, bizarre, and beautiful coming of age movies in recent memory. Films like Raw come out every 10 or 15 years and they are not to be missed. Everyone should see this movie.
When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.
The story follows Justine (Garance Marlier) and primarily her first week at the veterinary college, which is also where her parents attended and where her older sister is currently studying. She and her entire family are vegetarians. When Justine arrives at the school, she quickly learns that it is gonna be a difficult process to get through her first year, especially when she is forced to eat meat for the first time. Oh, and not just any meat: A raw rabbit kidney. At this point, the movie starts to get sickening.
When Justine attends her first party, she runs into her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf). Right off the bat, you can tell that Alexia that she wants to look out for her little sister, but also slightly torment her. The dynamic and relationship between Justine and Alexia are fantastic and they really propel and carry the film. One of the biggest themes in Raw is loyalty to your family, no matter what. And when I say no matter what, I mean it.
Without spoiling too much of the film, a few events happen that cause Justine to develop a taste for raw meat. Not just raw meat of animals, but also that of people. When this happens, the character transformation begins and it is truly breathtaking. At the same time, Justine is also experiencing her sexual awakening. She begins to show interest in her gay roommate and other people attending the school. The counterpart of both her sexual appetite and craving for raw meat are executed in the most subdued and satisfying ways. It never felt forced. As a matter of fact, nothing in Raw felt forced, which is what made it so captivating. The story flowed very well and Julia Ducournau’s (Writer, Director) vision is spewed out in sickening and engaging ways.
One of the strongest aspects of Raw is the relationship between Justine and Alexia. Their bond just simply feels so real and the loyalty jumps off the screen every time they share a scene together. The performances from Marlier and Rumph are splendid. There is really good contrast of scenes that involve them that make you wanna puke and make you wanna cry. That is very difficult to do. This isn’t just a story of a girl becoming a cannibal, it is much deeper than that. It’s a story of a young girl discovering herself and always remembering that family is everything. The more you think about Raw and peel back the layers, the better it gets. Truly a thought-provoking film.
The makeup department definitely deserves a lot of recognition. For Raw being such a low budget indie film, the gore and makeup are super impressive. There were a few scenes that looked incredibly realistic. The score is also very memorable and it amplifies certain scenes exponentially, sending chills down your spine. The cinematography also really fit this type of movie very well. It was shot in a way that felt really hectic and scary in the first act to mirror Justine’s thought process and emotional state. But as the movie progressed into the second and third act, certain camera movements became less frantic and more smooth overall to mirror her finding herself. The very subtle camerawork is very pleasing in Raw.
Overall, there aren’t many bad things to say about Raw. The pacing was great and the performances made it difficult to look away from the screen, even when you wanted to in the nauseating scenes. It is one of the most bizarre and thought-provoking coming of age films ever. If you have a weak stomach, it is recommended to bring a barf bag because Raw doesn’t hold back at all when it comes to the gruesomeness. The directorial debut of Julia Ducournau has me very excited for what she makes next because Raw felt like a veteran filmmaker’s masterwork. Go see it in theaters, preferably on an empty stomach.