When the anticipation is as high for a movie as mine was for Raw, disappointment is inevitable. I mean, when a THR article reports that paramedics needed to be called due to patrons passing out in the theatre at last year’s TIFF, the bar is set fairly high – unattainable, some would say. Let me assure you, that bar is very attainable. I, for one, didn’t feel queazy during any part of the French cannibal flick, although I did turn my head away during the incessant itching scene.
Having seen the trailer multiple times (due to my somewhat high attendance at Alamo), but never having read a synopsis or review, I still felt like I was going in cold. (As you know, I prefer to go into new movies with the freshest eyes possible.) Here’s what we get from the trailer: a young woman, Justine (Garance Marillier), starts attending veterinary school; she doesn’t eat meat; she has a crush on a cute boy, Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella); as they tend to, things get crazy during her first year of college; she develops a taste for blood.
Two things hit me in the first act: 1.) The performances are remarkable. Marillier delivers an award-worthy portrayal of our protagonist. Oufella is a jocular yet lovable crush. Ella Rumpf (the sister, Alexia/upperclassman) is stellar as our antagonist/friend/co-star/comic relief. Secondary performances from a professor (Jean-Louis Sbille), mother (Joanna Preiss), and father (Laurent Lucas) round out a wonderful cast. 2.) Stanley Kubrick is still inspiring filmmakers today (as he should). In Julia Ducournau’s first feature, she draws obvious inspiration from the iconic director of The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, and Full Metal Jacket among several other masterpieces. From the “Kubrick look” Marillier gives during a few shots to the camera movement, Ducournau shows her craft and gives a deserved nod to Kubrick.
Speaking of Ducournau, she breaks into the film world with a near masterpiece of her own. Having written and directed Raw, she shows the viewer exactly what was in her head. She moves from serene countryside portraits to chaotic college parties complete with thumping house music and loads of booze – each scene given the care and time it deserves. The script, although convoluted at times (I chalk that up to being a fairly sheltered American kid), lays out a story wherein we’re brought in alongside this young woman who is literally thrown into an unknown world and left to fend for ourselves. It is punk rock and giallo and shock and blood thrown into a pot that marries to create a beautiful piece of cinema.
The shock isn’t as it was built up to be. Don’t get me wrong, there were some moments of grossness that had me laughing with hysteria, but even my wife, who tends to have a weak stomach, kept looking (albeit with a look of disgust on her face). Along with that, there were some truly comical moments. One in particular, which took place in the background while a moment of shock was happening in the foreground, had a couple of us rolling with laughter. The gentleman sitting next to me gave me a look of sheer confusion, wondering what exactly I found hysterical about the scene. He was also the guy that squirmed with every drop of blood, which had me confused as to why he was there in the first place.
Raw is worth your time. We even ate while watching, which was the big question beforehand. It leaves me with excitement to see what Docournau has up her sleeve. This is a beautiful coming of age story, tackling the topic of cannibalism with beauty and grace, believe it or not. It’s not a scary movie, but it has left its mark on me. A mark not unlike the last image you’ll see in the movie.