“Raw” is a masterstroke. A meticulously crafted character driven look at the classic path towards the ‘loss of innocence.’ The film takes its time, and builds. Despite it being a story about a violent subject matter, “Raw” does not barrage you with gore. The film is too smart to simply be gross out material.
Justine (Garance Marillier) is starting her first year at veterinary school, the same school her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) attends. Alexia is elated to see her and they maintain a close connection. Justine, however, doesn’t like the hazing rituals that the other students at the vet school orchestrate, most having to do with the eating of raw meat. Justine is a vegetarian, and when she gets a taste for raw meat she eventually gains a taste for flesh. Things descend further as she becomes more isolated.
The performances are of high caliber, Garance Marillier has a way of biting into her lines that shows a certain ferocity. Ella Rumpf conveys a certain rebellion and command that is natural and organic. The cinematography is gorgeous, drawing you into every portion of the shot.
The strongest element of “Raw”, and the key word, is tone. It could just as soon be a college movie as it is about a running trait through a family. The horror aspects are close to tertiary. Director Julia Ducournau has a terrific grasp of when something should happen and how, allowing scenarios to develop and tension to build organically. She has a specific vision, stating that “cannibalism is interesting because it goes with my body obsessions, for me when you talk about the body, you talk about more than the body – you talk about the human condition. The film is about the representation of death.”
At the end of the film, it is revealed that not only did Justine and her sister have this taste for human flesh, but their mother did as well. The implication proposed is that it is a disorder carried genetically through their family. It’s a terrific metaphor.
“Raw” is an announcement by Ducournau, and a promising signal of things to come. It is one of the best films of the year thus far. It is akin to a great dish by a master chef, a piece that demands to be savored and taken in. You know, like human flesh.
Written by Jeff Turner // Published by Gabby Kesterson