RAW (France | Belgium/18/99mins)
Directed by Julia Ducournau. Starring Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss.
THE PLOT: Justine (Garance Marillier) has been a vegetarian all her life, when she goes through a hazing ritual at veterinarian school however, the young woman finds herself hungering for something more than the diet she has known all her life, something that will have disastrous consequences for her entire family.
THE VERDICT: French Belgian film ‘Raw’ has already been scrutinised after a screening at the Gothenburg Film Festival in Sweden caused people to leave the cinema, but although ‘Raw’ presents itself as a horror film, it is more a coming of age tale, with some unconventional, violent and frankly stomach churning moments thrown in for good measure.
Garance Marillier leads he cast as Justine, and doe a great job of playing a young woman away from home for the first time and overshadowed by her older sister. Dialogue in ‘Raw’ is minimal, but Marillier conveys such emotion through her gaze and body language that more talking would have just cluttered the screen. Marillier also makes easy work of turning Justine from an innocent young woman into a sexually confident young woman, as well as a predator when it comes to what he feels her body needs. The rest of the cast features Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas and Joana Preiss.
Writer/director Julia Ducournau has created a film that is a cannibalistic struggle on the surface, but added layers underneath to explain the character and her move away from childhood into adulthood. The allegory is dealt with very subtly, and although statements are made about characters early on in the film, these are allowed to gently blur and shift over the course of the movie. The horror elements of the film are few and far between, but are squirm inducing at the best of times, although surprisingly it is not the eating that is the most troubling, more the purging. There are a lot of questions asked in the film, not all of which are answered, but there is enough given that the audience is not left hungry for more.
In all, ‘Raw’ is a disgusting, thought provoking and decidedly feminist film that just so happens to tell its tale through the metaphor of cannibalism. There are some incredibly nausea inducing moments, but Garance Marillier carries these off with ease and flair. It would have been a more satisfying feast, however, if a little more of the mythology of what is happening to the character was fleshed out further.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Acclaimed French horror Raw arrives on these shores having been picked up by Universal Studios – a definite sign of confidence. If the stories about the film are to be believed, a screening in Sweden resulted in audience members fainting and getting sick. It’s the stuff of a delighted publicity department. Come on. Irish audiences are clearly made of stronger stuff.

    Justine (Garance Marillier) has been raised as a strict vegetarian by her father (Laurent Lucas) and mother (Joana Preiss). Eating any type of meat results in a strong physical reaction for Justine. Life events are changing for her. She’s going to veterinary college, where her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is a year ahead of her. She finds that she has a gay roommate in Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella), who helps her adjust to the strange hazing rituals that are part of the college. In order to be accepted by the ‘elders’, she’s forced to eat raw animal flesh and is doused in animal blood. This results in a nasty rash for her, but that’s only the beginning. Justine is undergoing a transformation. Her new-found carnivorous desires result in her nibbling on a severed finger. She likes it. Soon, her desire for human flesh drives her crazy and a new Justine comes forth, without any inhibitions…

    Recent French horrors like Switchblade Romance and the uncompromising Martyrs have shown a boldness and a willingness to tackle taboo subjects without coming across as exploitative. Raw is an intriguing addition. Most films about cannibals usually involve primitive tribes like in last year’s Bone Tomahawk or the more typical South American breed that featured in the notorious Cannibal Holocaust and its ilk, lovingly homaged in Eli Roth’s recent The Green Inferno. Writer/director Ducournau is more interested in moving away from that to tell a potentially realistic story that could come from everyday life. Justine’s gradual change from vegetarian to carnivore to cannibal is done in stages, which boost the credibility of the scenario and reduce the risk of unintentional laughs. When Justine first experiments with human flesh, it’s a shock rather than a giggle.

    While it would be too easy to just label Raw as ‘the cannibal movie’, there are a lot of other themes that come into play, which are reflective of the real world. Justine is a young woman dealing with peer pressure, hazing, coming-of-age independence from her parents and her own sexual awakening. Those extra layers make the story much more complex, right down to the provocative closing scene. Ducournau’s direction is sterling here, staying with Justine throughout and never giving into cheap gags or ‘relief humour’ to help the audience relax in between scenes. Ducournau doesn’t want you to sit too comfortably. Marillier is superb, all wide-eyed innocence at first before she becomes a ticking time bomb. It’s a very physical performance, emphasising the kind of body horror and detailed prosthetics that would make David Cronenberg proud. Raw won’t be to everyone’s taste (!), but a seasoned gorehound like this reviewer was really impressed with its no-nonsense approach to its characters, environment and themes. A strong contender for horror film of the year. ****