Raw is a captivating, near flawless debut that glues your eyes to screen, no matter how much you want to look away.
After enrolling in the very same veterinary school which her parents did, Justine (Garance Marillier) is thrust into the first week of education and hazing rituals away from home with only her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), an older student at the same school, as a friend. Justine, a lifelong vegetarian, is pressured into eating a raw rabbit kidney during initiation at the behest of her sister in fear of being labelled a traitor. Giving in to her sister Justine follows through with the ritual only to discover it awakens an ever increasing urge to consume meat.
Raw is very much the coming of age story of Justine who must face the unenviable pressures of life away from home, uncomfortable hazing rituals, and understanding who she is and how she fits into this new world she lives in. After eating meat for the first time Justine visits a nurse the following day after a nights sleep plagued by horrific itching. The sensation transforms her pristine skin into flared patches of red scaly skin across her body, and during the check up the nurse removes large patches dead skin, a very literal symbol of peeling away Justine’s former self to reveal her newfound identity to which she is completely unaware. During the nurses enquiries she asks Justine how she sees herself, to which she responds “average”. Unfortunately, the understanding of herself and how she wishes people to perceive her will be drastically different come the credit roll.
Though Justine is the central character to the film, the role of her sister Alexia is as equally an important role. The presence of Alexia allows Justine to compare how well she is facing these new challenges against somebody who is already deep into her education at the school, not to mention her closest friend. Alexia comes across confident and knowing, that she has everything figured out which when juxtaposed with Justine’s struggles is great to watch. Especially when Alexia also fills the role of a hazing upperclassman too.
Julia Ducournau’s directorial debut Raw is the kind of film that both the horror genre and the medium of film needs on a whole. Tackling a variety of themes from the female perspective it’s a film that, along with the likes of Anna Biller’s The Love Witch, all female directed anthology XX, and Alice Lowe’s Prevenge, continues to fill the void of female voices in film making. Anchored by a compelling central performance from Garance Marillier, who exquisitely morphs from naive and innocent to afflicted and troubled with ease, Raw is a captivating, near flawless debut that glues your eyes to screen, no matter how much you want to look away. With potential of both the director and her lead so frighteningly good, along with their peers the future of horror and film in general is looking up.