Written by: Julia Ducournau
Starring: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Laurent Lucas, Rabah Naït Oufella, Joana Preiss
Ugly untold family truths have a way to trickle down to more than one generation and it comes down to the parent to when they feel it’s right to share. Whether it be medical or behavioral, these potentially toxic inherited traits inform a reality to encounter. Raw runs with this to create an incredibly upsetting but equally engrossing feature seeing the descent of two young women into the lives they were meant to avoid.
Lifelong vegetarian, Justine (Garance Marillier) starts her first year at the same veterinary school where her sister is an upper-class student. During her first week, she goes through some intense hazing to integrate herself into the class, which forces her to do some uncomfortable things and discover something she was never meant to know.
Experiencing the horrors of Raw allows for readings on multiple levels. It can be viewed as the terrors of entering college where a sense of innocence gets stripped away as the reality of the real world takes hold, especially in a school this invested in hazing the new students. The other area comes from the disturbing imagery of what Justine and her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) end up doing that proves to not be totally out of their control. This feature wraps around these two ideas and manages to craft something terrifying, visually stylish, and wholly unforgettable.
Distinct shots of this feature remain in my head long after experiencing the film not only because of the grotesque things occurring throughout it but the enrapturing manner it all transpires. The scene where Justine sits in a provocative pose in the middle of the party just staring down the camera brings chills at the mere thought of it. Nearly reminiscent of the opening shot of A Clockwork Orange. The paint party resulting in a horrific altercation as well demonstrates the tone of this feature and how it navigates the sexual nature of these characters but the burning desire they have for something else as well.
As much as Raw speaks to the horrors of the college experience, particularly through hazing, this film also brings some insight into how this would work specifically in a veterinary school. This plays well into Justine’s vegetarianism, which automatically gets challenged by the hazing activities occurring in the film. Listen, having to ingest raw meat would certainly not land well for me, a carnivore, which only makes it unfathomable how it would impact a vegetarian. These vets-in-training go hard in a way that proved to be unexpected and it demonstrates the deeply entrenched traditions that continue to persist even if they have no bearing on how these students will succeed. That surely has not stopped hazing before and the true intention behind it, which ultimately leads Justine down a harmful road and one that completely flips the film on its head.
It must be said, this film will not sit well with those who cannot handle gore and damage to the human body as this feature delves into the depravity of Justine’s situation. The downward path this sets her on marks something disconcerting with what gets displayed and will make many squirm in what it depicts but the impact these scenes have do not come from simply trying to get under the skin of the audience but to accentuate the impact it has on Justine and Alexia to a terrifying degree.
Having seen this film before Titane but reviewing it afterward allows for an intriguing discussion about writer/director Julia Ducournau and how she has evolved as a filmmaker in such a short time. Having this film as her feature debut showed the signs of an incredible director from the very start as she tackles the disturbing subject matter with no fear and crafts something meant for people to feel uneasy but with the right emotional impact. It shows how she gets even better with Titane in bringing it all together and managing to cause chills down my spine even more but with Raw she starts out with such style to demonstrate what makes her an outstanding director.
Raw will cause you to squirm, gasp, and have an ever-growing concern about the direction the film will take. The places it goes allow for a fascinating look into what we inherit from our parents and what it can do to us even without our knowledge. It does so with incredible style as it all culminates into something that proves to be difficult to watch because of the subject matter but captivates in the way it all gets captured.