Raw really push the limits in the best of ways, but never at the expense of an extremely thrilling story.
If you decide to watch Raw – and you really should – then you can’t be squeamish about it. it’s not that the story itself will shock you, because if you’ve read the plot, then you know what to expect. Still, the way it evolves and reveals new layers should get to you. I kept thinking “You can’t do that!”. But yes. Yes, you can. And in Raw, they do!
Just to be clear, I’m not just talking about the graphic scenes that the trailer clips reveal.
It’s in all the details. Especially the realistic actions of the characters. They’re real people and never entirely good or bad. Like the way, an older professor has no problem telling a young girl that he simply doesn’t like students that are good. If they have an easy time with the lessons, he finds them annoying and doesn’t like teaching them. These are things that can often be implied, but here, they’re just flat out stated. Just like you get to see a lot more than usual with Raw.
But okay, obviously, the scenes that push the limits in a more conventional way, are the bloody ones. In particular, the ones where various carnivorous desires are being fulfilled. And sure, you can view the story of Raw as being symbolic or serving as an analogy. It’s very easy and not necessarily wrong. But still… the story of Raw is also exactly what we’re being showed. Without any further explanations or excuses.
Once you get a taste for something, quitting can be next to impossible
Raw is basically a story of addiction but told from an alternative angle and with a really great plot. It’s the story about growing up and pushing boundaries, but also a story about family and origin – both nature and nurture.
Our main protagonist, Justine, is a young girl, who’s a vegetarian. She loves animals and is studying to become a veterinarian, but she’s a vegetarian because the family is. It’s something she’s fine with, but never something she actively decided for herself.
Her sister is also studying to become a veterinarian at the same school, but it’s clear that she’s left the values of their family behind when she left home. Still, Justine has always been the genius of the family, who’s very determined and organized. That’s why it certainly isn’t a given that she’ll follow in the footsteps of her older sister.
In fact, nothing in Raw is ever a given. But as the story progresses it does become increasingly obvious which path she’ll be taking.
The acting is as deliciously raw as the title
The acting of Raw is absolutely amazing. It’s completely raw – oh yeah, I said it – and direct, which is all-important for the story to work. We have to accept that these characters are real and that the plot is natural and believable. This is only possible if the acting is completely on point. And it is!
From Justine, who’s portrayed by Garance Marillier, to her sister, Alex, who’s played by Ella Rumpf. Their sibling love-hate relationship is portrayed with such honest emotion that I had no problem accepting these two came from the same gene pool. I didn’t know either of these actresses, but I feel very confident that they’ll be offered plenty of roles in the future. The same goes for Rabah Nait Oufella (Girlhood), who plays Justine’s gay roommate, Adrien. She asked for a female roommate but got him instead. As he says, when they first meet “They probably figured gay male was the same as a girl.”
Julia Ducournau is a new horror queen
Raw was written and directed by Julia Ducournau, and I cannot believe this is actually her feature film debut. She studied screenwriting and has an amazing grip with the story as well. It’s especially great for this story, which is so much more nuanced and interesting than what the plot itself would indicate. As a director, Julia Ducournau is pushing the limits for what you can show, And I’m not even talking about the blood-soaked scenes in particular.
And then there are the scenes that are so insanely French, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Like when Justine is in the middle of a doctor’s appointment with a friendly, but very honest, female doctor. The doctor suddenly fishes out her pack of cigarettes from a pocket and lights up. In the office. While talking to a patient. I mean, sure, many of us may have grown up with this being normal, but that’s no longer the case.
I realize some people would call this “very European behavior”, but I assure you it’s not. It is however very French and the scene is perfect for this movie, which has many very French moments. Despite being extremely conservative in some regards, they are also very liberal in most others. And Raw perfectly captures both!
Raw really needs to be experienced in a dark movie theater
I watched this movie at a sold-out screening, which is the perfect setting. You need to put yourself in a position where there’s no escape and just surrender to it. I was watching other people in the rows in front of me, and people were covering their mouths in shock and disgust. Their eyes, however, were peeled to the big screen. And that’s exactly what Raw does. It makes you watch even though you don’t want to see what’s happening. Like watching an accident unfold, but in this case, you’re welcome to stare and get all the details.
Raw is an insanely strong feature film debut, which should be watched by mainstream audiences. Still, there’s no doubt that fans of horror movies should find this one particularly appealing.
It delivers on all the horror you want. Still, the best part of Raw was the story, which offered so much more than I ever imagined. I went in to watch something I knew would probably shock me, but I got so much more. An amazing story with details and layers I never expected.
Raw premiered at Cannes Film Festival this year and is still playing film festivals all over the world. We just saw it at CPH PIX (Copenhagen International Film Festival). If you have the chance to watch it at a film festival, then jump at the opportunity. Also, there is a US release date in place, which is set for March 10, 2017. Trust me, it will be well worth the wait.
Director: Julia Ducournau
Writer: Julia Ducournau
Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.