Director: Julia Ducornau.
Actors: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabat Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas and Joana Preiss.
People fainting, storming out, or being kicked out of screenings are nothing new to film festivals. Never mind that most attendees or press are exhausted, drunk, and malnourished half of the time. RAW is one such movie where a festival attendees was taken away by medics during TIFF earlier this year, so hype going to the FF screening was high.
Thankfully, RAW is a movie that stands on its own and it tells a thrilling and down right gross genre story.
Director Julia Ducornau’s debut takes places in the world’s most messed up veterinary school out in the french countryside as we follow Justine (Garamillier) , a very awkward and meek vegetarian, as she tries to survive her first semester in this school.
And it’s not easy.
There’s a creep ritualistic hazing, professors who hate her for being smart, and of course trying to cope with a strange cannibalistic instinct that’s overtaking her. Pretty standard freshman problem.
At first it seemed that this movie was all about the establishment (the school) grinding down a person’s individuality (Justine’s vegetarianism), but instead the movie explores various issues of the oppressive nature of tradition, nature vs. nurture, and the terrible awkwardness that comes with growing up.
The actors in the movie, primarily the two sisters, Justineand Alexia (Rumpf), are outstanding. Their chemistry feel as natural as their rivalry echoing years of frustration as Alex is the “black sheep” of this vegetarian family, being the wild child clad in all black and willing eating rabbit kidney.
The majority of the run time is about Justine’s affinity for meat that was never there before and her tutelage under her sister. B
As Julie continues her descent, the movie becomes more and more intense but none of it feels gratuitous which was a fear going into the movie.
Instead, the violence is shocking and visceral but always earned and it’s is all done with amazing practical effects where you can almost smell the blood.
What’s surprising is how well it explores the theme of oppression by tradition. Every situation in which Justine finds herself is always due to someone or something upholding a tradition whether it’s institutional, societal, even genetic. There’s a certain bleakness in that the movie posits that we are never free.
RAW is not a good “shocking” movie. It’s just a confident and assured debut along with some amazing performances by talented young women, and practical effects. What’s not to love?