When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.
‘Raw’ is a provocative French drama that explores a variety of themes through the beginning of college for a teenage girl. The film begins in a roadside café where Justine (Garance Marillier) and her parents have stopped for some food en route to dropping Justine off at the veterinary school where she’ll be starting college. The family are vegetarians and when a rogue piece of sausage ends up in Justine’s food it causes her some distress, which only gets worse when she, and the remainder of first year students, are subjected to a hazing ritual involving the consumption of rabbit kidneys. From this point onwards, Justine starts to change and this previously staunch vegetarian starts to develop a taste for flesh which she struggles to keep under control.
The film is rich with symbolism, with the most obvious one being the parallels between Justine’s descent into cannibalism and her attempts to navigate her way through the trials and tribulations of college. Much of the cannibalistic activity seems to act as a metaphor for Justine’s liberation and blooming sexuality, and director Julia Ducournau brings an erotic edge to many of the film’s scenes, including some of the goriest. Marillier is outstanding in the leading role, bringing a sense of vulnerability to Justine, but also a degree of tenacity and alienation simmer through her performance. Her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), who also attends the college as an older student, is equally good, and they make a compelling duo when they share scenes together. The film is superbly soundtracked, both in terms of the score and the use of popular music, and Ducournau does an excellent job of capturing the hedonistic nature of the student lifestyle through parties and the connections the characters make with one another. The film is very well made, and that carries through to a narrative that develops in interesting ways and builds to a satisfying conclusion.
‘Raw’ is an impressive cinematic debut from Julia Ducournau that tackles a relatable premise (starting college) through the prism of a horror movie, and it’s a movie well worth your time.
Directed By: Julia Ducournau
Starring: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Naït Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss, Bouli Lanners, Marion Vernoux and Jean-Louis Sbille