An intense, violent, surprisingly relatable film about adolescence… and cannibalism.
April 21, 2017
Cinematic explorations of teen sexuality are fairly common. So is finding the horrific side of adolescent desires and urges. Indeed, there are plenty of scary big screen stories about teens battling their feelings as well as a deadly figure or force, with the filmmakers practically yelling "METAPHOR!" at the audience. But pairing such tales with cannibalism? That's something a little more unusual. Here's hoping that your stomach is empty, because Raw offers quite the filling meal.
First, the rotting carcass in the room. When Julia Ducournau's debut feature screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, an ambulance had to be called to look after fainting movie-goers. Raw isn't actually the wall-to-wall gore-fest you might have been led to believe, but red bodily fluids do flow freely, severed limbs certainly feature, and downing rabbit kidneys with vodka is one of the more tame occurrences to fill the film's frames. Basically, the film isn't recommended viewing for those who easily get queasy. Thanks to its far-from-standard take on the savagery of growing up, however, it's absolutely vital viewing for everyone else.
When the quiet and studious Justine (Garance Marillier) is dropped off at veterinary school by her vegan vet parents, she's awash with both excitement about what's to come and reluctance about leaving her old existence behind. Marillier delivers an astonishingly astute and fluid performance, and you can see both emotions swirling behind her expressive doe eyes. The look remains when Justine is dragged out of bed in the middle of the night as part of a hazing ritual, and when she's forced to attend a raucous, rave-like subterranean party. It flickers strongly when she's told, despite her protests, to eat meat, receiving absolutely no assistance from her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) who also attends the same college. And, when Justine breaks out in a rash soon after gulping back her first mouthful, it positively beams from her gaze.
With a ravenous appetite for dissecting what it means to chew upon adulthood when you're still just a teenage girl — one that aptly matches her protagonist's new craving for human flesh — Ducournau slices through the typical cliches to create a film that is both thought-provoking and a sensory feast. Saying that the movie is meaty might seem a little bit easy, but as its writer-director cooks up a distinctive platter of body horror musings – taking inspiration from genre king David Cronenberg while carving out her own space – such an adjective really couldn't be more fitting.
To put it simply, if you have the constitution for it, you're going to want to consume every last morsel of Ducournau's film. Your eyes will drink in the visceral thrills that come from the bites and the splatter. Your ears will soak in a score that knows when to keep things simple and when to season with pounding pressure. Finally, your brain will hunger for more as it gnaws upon the onslaught of emotional and physical carnage. Bon appétit.