4 stars

Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, and Joana Preiss

Director: Julia Ducournau

Synopsis: When a young vegetarian is forced to eat rabbit at a veterinary school, she develops an unbidden taste for meat…


Raw is a French-Belgian film which is the debut studio release from newcomer director Julia Ducournau. It tells the story of Justine (Garance Marillier) as she joins a veterinary school, and is forced to eat rabbit meat as a hazing ritual from the senior year. However, Justine is a vegetarian and finds it hard to stomach (pun intended) the idea of eating meat. Her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) quickly shows her that it’s easy and it’s over quickly. Justine begins to develop an obsessive taste and craving for meat, and not just rabbit meat…

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What Raw does extremely well, is it manages to create complex ideas and themes beneath the surface. The body of the film is the plot, but the organs are the realistic themes and subjects which are very relevant in this day and age. It’s more of a coming of age tale, rather than a horror gore fest, and we see Justine’s life at the school as she tries to fit in in with everyone else, and doing so with just one friend (Rabah Nait Oufella) and Alexia (her sister). Rabah Nait Oufella’s character Adrien is Justine’s room mate, and is the only person who tries to support her and help her through her time at the vet school.

Speaking of the vet school, it’s a very grimy, dingy and unclean place. It makes you feel uncomfortable and really gets under your skin. The whole atmosphere makes you feel small and isolated. This is one of the things that Raw also does very well. However the rest of the film leaves you underwhelmed. The climax is supposed to shock you, but at this point I was just waiting for the film to end so there’s no real disturbance, other than how absurd it is. That being said, the ending scene is very clever and smart but this does nothing to the audience unless you can captivate them, which is hard for a film so unrelatable, like this one, to do.

The bond between both sisters is supposed to be affectionate and sweet, in particular a scene toward the end which displays the love between both is pleasant. But you feel no real connection between them unless you have experienced the same. Some confrontations make for some of the best scenes in the movie, however I can think of multiple other films that depict the same relationship, except they do it better…

The drab and dull look of Raw is miserable. Whether this was the intention is hard to grasp, but the lack of colour makes the watching experience quite frankly, depressing. It’s easy to see why audiences didn’t like it, because there is no sympathy that you feel for Justine because of what she does, and the random tantrums she has throughout the film are just irritating and don’t help the cause. At all. The filmmakers clearly tried to create a sense of sorrow and sympathy for Justine which is understandably hard to do, however I didn’t feel it, nor did I care about the outcome of the main character. Contrary to this, though, there were a few scenes where you genuinely felt sorry for her, but it quickly changes throughout the film and there is no consistency. One scene you hate her, the next you sympathise for, the sequence after this makes you question why you even felt this way! You almost feel bad, about feeling bad for her!


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Justine (Garance Marillier) and Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella) after arriving at the veterinary school 


The performances are absolutely breath taking. From all the cast members. Everyone pulls their weight and they’re multi-dimensional in every possible scene. It’s been a long time since a film has had such captivating depictions. The performances grip you and make you feel as if you’re truly there with the characters during their confrontations, and taking the same veterinary classes; sitting behind them during the lessons. Unfortunately due to the very small release, and the fact it’s a foreign film, there is no way the Academy would acknowledge such excellence, and every member of the cast deserves an Oscar for their perfect realism. Garance Marillier in the lead role, is beyond amazing. The struggle she deals with in such a vile environment is just saddening, and the way she portrays and displays this is phenomenal. When Justine is looking in the mirror while listening to an erotic yet disturbing song in her earphones, there Is no telling what is going through her complex and misunderstood mind. It’s particularly unsettling, because she appears so innocent yet so dirty and patronising. All of these emotions I felt were conjured just from this one scene where she’s just dancing in front of a grimy mirror, kissing it and making marks from her lipstick. It sounds simple, but it conveys so much, and this is just the pairing of Marillier’s exceptional performance and Ducournau’s magnificent direction.

The camera work and cinematography is great. The film is beautifully shot, especially the opening sequence. It’s unexplained and mysterious and you don’t understand it until the third act, then the scene starts and it just clicks in your mind. Again, the mirror scene features brilliant camerawork, this combined with the interesting and unique use of colour is really effective. It feels very 90’s, due to the music choice, and gives off a very retro vibe.

The gore factor is beyond disturbing. The use of close up shots during excessively violent scenes are very brave. Most films would shy away from this, but Raw doesn’t. For someone who watches horror films very often. I found some scenes so bloody and sickening I had to turn away. However these types of sequences were not glamorising violence or presenting it in a comic and stupid fashion, like the Human Centipede series, in fact it’s quite the opposite, there is reason for the violence and blood in Raw, and you feel the purpose because of how realistic it looks. There is one scene where Justine is in a bathroom stall, choking up blood (and something else), a lot of Hollywood blockbusters wouldn’t even dare to show a scene like this, but it’s moments like these that make Raw a repulsive yet realistic film, and one that stays with you for days after watching it…