A coming-of-age story like no other, Julia Ducournau’s feature film debut is an exquisitely crafted, elegantly narrated & excellently performed horror thriller that’s beautiful yet brutal, erotic yet disturbing & shocking yet compelling, and makes for a thoroughly gripping meditation on carnal cravings of all kinds.
Raw tells the story of Justine, a lifelong vegetarian who arrives at a veterinary school to start her college. Forced to eat raw flesh as part of the hazing ritual, she develops an unnatural craving for meat that leads her on a path to finding her true self, and sets into motion a series of events that culminate with devastating consequences.
Written & directed by Julia Ducournau, Raw commences her feature filmmaking career on a truly sensational note, and is one of the most impressive debuts in recent memory. Working both as a straight-forward cannibalistic horror & an ingeniously layered allegory on primal desires, the film manages to be touching, alluring & stomach-churning at the same time.
Ducournau’s writing is just as good, if not better, for the characters inhabiting this feature are fully fleshed out and have enough meat on their arcs. Justine’s own journey to self-discovery is handled with delicate care yet illustrated in an erotically charged fashion while her blossoming relationship with her sister ultimately becomes the very ingredient that binds this tale together.
Be it the set pieces, camerawork, editing or soundtrack, all the aspects work in tandem with each other to further amplify its disquieting aura and the nauseating images that accompany those key moments linger on long after the credits have rolled. Its foreboding tone & uneasy feel is quietly & quickly established, and is effectively sustained till its downright shocking final revelation.
The hazing rituals bring a sickening side of their own, even if they are shown in a fun & harmless manner. Camerawork is controlled and shifts gear as per the requirements of the scene, however, the images maintain a calm demeanour even when things go wild. Editing is brilliant for the most part but its pacing hits a snag every time the director attempts to focus on other characters.
As far as performances go, Raw benefits most from Garance Marillier’s knockout act, for she is an absolute revelation in the role of Justine, and brings her to life with patience, perseverance & inner aggression. It’s a measured showcase from the young actress and she is nicely supported by Ella Rumpf who plays her sister. Lastly, Jim Williams contributes with a scintillating score that infuses flavour of its own into the final print.
On an overall scale, Raw not only amazes as a blood-soaked horror but is equally accomplished as a cleverly envisioned coming-of-age story, and is one of the finest entries in both genres. Unique in its storytelling, effective in its execution, and definitely not for the easily distressed, this French horror is bold, brutal & bewitching in just the right doses, and delivers a cinematic experience that won’t be easily forgotten. Highly recommended.