Raw is a film by Julia Ducournau about an aspiring veterinarian that finds difficulty fitting in with her new schoolmates because of her peculiar eating habits. There was quite a bit of buzz surrounding this movie, as audience members reportedly fainted at the sight of some of the grotesque images displayed on screen. This got me a little excited, as I do like a good scare every once-in-a-while, but I was surprised to see that I wasn’t terrified rather I was squirming in my seat in discomfort.
This is a body-horror film that doesn’t feel like a gratuitous torture-porn like picture as pretty much every disturbing image helped craft the story being told. With that said, the plot as a whole was pretty good; it was a coming-of-age story shrouded in a horror element. Our protagonist Justine (played by Garance Marillier) is looking to fit in with her class-mates over at her university and several events, both good and bad, help shape her reputation at the school. I thought Marillier’s performance in conveying this was pretty good, as she effectively displayed herself as both this vulnerable newcomer and teenager that wanted to fulfill her desires, nefarious or not. The other characters are pretty good too, as Justine’s sister Alexia (played by Ella Rumpf) did a wonderful job in portraying the older sister that just wants her sister to fit in, even if the process in doing so isn’t too wholesome.
The film also does a good job visually to elicit a response or a feeling from the audience, for the most part. The overall setting provides a bit of discomfort and a sense of claustrophobia, as we have scenes where there’s a giant rave happening in a dorm room and there’s a scene with Justine as she is frightened under her bed sheets; we feel Justine being trapped in her insecurities and fears. The film also does a good job at showing that Justine is seemingly alone in her struggle with the aforementioned scene under her bed sheets, and a scene of her walking in solitude along a foggy, gray road after witnessing a gruesome scene involving her sister. While the film does a good job with that, there are a few spots where I thought “this scene was added just to be artsy.” One scene in particular was just showing a horse running in slow-motion, with no real explanation as to why. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t really see the significance of this, along with some other shots laced throughout the film.
Even though the film had some good performances and an interesting premise, there were quite a few instances where I thought “this scene is unnecessary”. I guess spoilers here if you don’t want to know anything about the film, but these bits aren’t too consequential on the plot. SPOILERS HERE The beginning of the film shows a figure (later shown to be Alexia) throwing herself in front of a blue station wagon, which then skids off the road into a tree. It’s shown later in the film that Justine’s parents drove a blue station wagon, and the opening scene took place some time after they dropped her off at the university. There’s a scene where Justine sees the crashed station wagon and the injured/deceased being tended to by emergency personnel. I took this as her parents were the ones that crashed, but we see them all fine and dandy later in the film. I’m not sure if this was supposed to be a misdirect because there wasn’t a scene to specifically say the parents weren’t a part of the crash. There could’ve been something really interesting here, showing that Alexia’s recklessness could lead to her loved ones being hurt, not just herself.
Another scene I was scratching my head at was the scene concerning Alexia’s dog Quicky. We have already seen that Quicky was put down and was given to the university for scientific purposes, in which Justine starts to take Quicky’s organs out with no sense of remorse for effectively killing the dog. We feel anger, confusion, and a bit of dread with that scene alone, but about five minutes later they take the sheet off of Quicky to have us stare at its corpse for a period of time. We already felt sorry for the dog just five minutes earlier, we don’t need another scene to try and do the exact same thing. SPOILER FREE
This film does a pretty good job in making the audience uncomfortable with its grotesque images and unsettling story, but it falters a bit with some plot holes, unnecessary scenes, and there’s some things visually I can’t say that I enjoyed too much. Overall, I’d say give it a watch if you want to test your limits on what makes you squirm and wince.
Favorite Scene: Don’t play around with shears.
Images courtesy of Amazon, Indiewire, and Filmkult