Starring: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
Director: Julia Ducournau
Running Time: 99 mins
Raw (Grave) is a French/Belgian film about a shy, vegetarian girl who, upon arriving at university is subjected to a brutal initiation ceremony. In the process, she is force-fed raw meat, and she soon acquires an insatiable hunger for human flesh.
Some films come with a certain reputation. Raw, through brilliant viral marketing and stories of cinemagoers requiring medical assistance during screenings, definitely has a reputation. Its bold, no-holds-barred brand of cannibal gore had viewers fainting all over the world, and while it is absolutely an uncomfortable, almost traumatising watch, it’s still a really, really good film, and surely one of the most memorable of recent years.
The thing is, as brutally gruesome as it is at times, Raw tells a story that goes a lot further than simply churning out gratuitous gore. In fact, when you look past its most stomach-churning moments, it reveals itself to be a brilliant, intimate and equally devastating coming-of-age drama, and one where the experience of growing up will strike just as much fear into you as any of its flesh-fetishising horror.
The story of a young, shy girl who finds herself thrown in at the deep end with her university experience after a brutal initiation ritual, the movie is a pretty devastating account of the perils and struggles that come with growing up, finding yourself and trying to fit in all at the same time, using the increasingly horrifying gore as an electrifying metaphor for the classic coming-of-age story.
And that’s what I really liked about Raw. It’s not a nice, entertaining movie by any means, but it uses its daunting gore to brilliant effect throughout, taking what may come across as gratuitous at first glance and relating it perfectly to its core story, not only making those most gruesome moments powerful and relevant within the scope of the whole story, but also raising the intensity of its emotional drama right the way through.
Couple that with bold, almost bleak directing from Julia Ducournau and a striking, saddening performance from Garance Marillier in the lead role, and you have a film that stands as one of the most powerful yet depressing coming-of-age dramas in a long time, but simultaneously an exhilarating piece of horror-drama, finding the perfect way to use a brand of gore that many may be turned away from at first.
Of course, with such intensely gruesome horror and depictions of cannibalism, Raw really isn’t for the faint-hearted. It hits hard throughout with a number of brutal moments of gore, all centred around a traumatising dramatic turning point that, despite its importance in the story and the main character’s development from shy young girl to an obsessively confident adult, is pretty unbearable to stomach.
In short, Raw is a very striking film. It’s not an easy watch by any means, but despite its daunting reputation for brutally gruesome horror and scenes of cannibalism (which it definitely lives up to), it’s a riveting, emotionally exhilarating drama that uses its traumatising brand of horror to tell an enthralling and equally devastating coming-of-age story, and that’s why I’m giving Raw a 7.6 overall.