Directed by Julia Ducournau
By Christopher Spencer
Directed by Julia Ducournau and starring Garance Marillier, Raw is a psychological horror thriller drama film, exploring the growth of a young girl into an adult woman, who also happens to be a cannibal. You know, normal girl stuff.
I have had some struggle in the past to really get into foreign films. Some I love like Pan’s Labyrinth, Cinema Paradiso and Amores Porres. But the real struggle is the highly-praised foreign film from film festivals. Case in point: Raw, a movie I only watched because there was this mysterious buzz around it.
The story is surely fascinating enough, as Raw is not just about a girl being a cannibal, but the coming-of-age focus allows for us to actually care about Justine. We are allowed to peer into this tumultuous, confusing, scary and psychosexual experience she is going through, and it is all deeply fascinating. Garance Marillier plays Justine just like this precious, totally innocent flower at first, and the descent she goes through as the movie continues is something intoxicating, almost supernatural, because Marillier is so into it all.
In all honesty I was absolutely stunned by Raw. Not only is this film performed wonderfully by Marillier and Ella Rumpf as Justine’s coldhearted sister Alexia, but the direction is so thorough and clear, the writing is darkly funny even though there may be a little lost in translation, and the film is beautifully shot. It’s tone and story is constantly evolving, at times feeling like an actual coming-of-age drama, changing to a near-horror movie, and even stretching far enough into an erotic thriller.
If I could fault Raw on something, it would be that there are characters and scenes that don’t always pay off. The rest of the story is brilliantly constructed for many things to come back and enhance future developments, but some of the earlier scenes feel out of place or side-characters would say and do things then never be seen again. Chalk it up to being a French film that has a few things us Western audiences don’t know, but a small edit could help that.
Raw is quite shocking, brutal, intensely atmospheric, and completely unafraid to show nudity, blood, bodily fluids, pubic hair, and constant multisided sexual innuendos, and I applaud it for that. This film dives into whatever it wants and still manages to feel consistent and unexpected. Raw is an incredible debut feature for writer-director Julia Ducournau, a stellar debut performance from Garance Marillier, and is one exceptional foreign film that features one of the boldest and scariest endings I’ve seen in a while.