Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Bouli Lanners
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…goes outside the norm of what we would consider body horror…
After being force-fed meat during a hazing ritual, veterinarian student and hardcore vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) begins to develop an unhealthy interest in cannibalism in this surprisingly beautiful feature from French director Julie Ducournau. Surprisingly beautiful because when one hears the term ‘cannibal’ they’d be forgiven for conjuring up images from the works of Ruggero Deodato. What they probably won’t imagine is something like Raw, which goes outside the norm of what we would consider body horror.
Justine’s parents expect her to be a vet, and make the lifestyle choice of vegetarianism more akin to an indoctrination. At school, she reluctantly partakes in hazing so that she doesn’t stand out too much and embarrass her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), who attends the same school. Justine’s growing appetite for flesh may be highly unusual, but it serves as just another thing in her life that has been forced upon her. Yet as Raw progresses, we do see her try to embrace it and from doing so, she begins to develop and grow from a young girl into a grown woman who craves her own mind. When sister dearest admits to having the same predilections and invites her to her own carnivorous world, Justine chooses that moment to be her own person. Raw is as much a coming of age drama as it is a horror.
Whilst this is without a doubt Marillier’s film as the young metamorphosing protagonist, attention should also be given to Rumpf who is equally captivating as Alexia; the pair equally in love and hate with each other as they tackle their desires/womanhood. Both performances are enhanced by Ducournau’s visuals and blackest of black humour that serves to make Raw one of those horrors that defies a simple desire to make you squirm in your seat and, instead, manages to make you think and feel.