Film Review: ‘Raw’ Will Eat You Alive

Do not expect to know what you’re getting into.

Raw is, at its heart, a story about university life. There is rampant partying, hazing, and even crises of sexuality. Justine, much like the viewer, is not prepared for what she’ll find there. Her sister is the quintessential settled in blasé upperclassman, and she is eager to introduce Justine to the wild lifestyle of veterinary school- which is not something one expects to think about veterinary school. But rest assured, these kids aren’t just here to learn.

Unfortunately, Justine doesn’t have the best first day. From being doused in animal blood to being forced to eat a rabbit’s kidney, it seems like she’s off to a rough start. And god, had I known how rough it was going to get, I would’ve waited to eat lunch. Raw may be a story about growing up and coming into one’s own, but it is also a story about eating people.

One of the most fascinating characters aside from Justine herself is her roommate. Ostensibly gay, he is clearly disturbed by how much he is drawn to her, and actively resists the urge. As he says once in disgust, he didn’t spend 20 years hiding to start sleeping with girls at university. She knows he is gay, has caught him in the act with men, yet she pursues him anyways. Perhaps this speaks to Justine’s naïveté, but it also demonstrates the belligerence and self-absorption of youth. And Justine is not as normal as her drawn, tired face would have you believe at first glance. A glimpse into that, is given when she equates monkeys to women, claiming that monkeys would be as traumatized by rape by a man and would need therapy too (while that may be so, it’s not the best stance to take among fellow women). Another glimpse into that is when she eats her sister’s finger.

The relationship between Justine and her sister is one of codependency, that’s been clearly lost since her sister left her to go to college. Their mother is overbearing and vigilant that they stick to a vegetarian diet at home, and it becomes clear why when the first taste of meat sends Justine on a rampage of partying, drinking, and oh, a few nibbles here and there on unsuspecting would-be lovers.

Justine, to her credit, in between bouts of violence and jagged mood swings, is aware of how wrong she and her sister are in what they’re doing, eventually confronting her sister after her own exploits are caught on camera (by the aforementioned roommate). The end of the film brings up more questions than it answers, including why her family is so tightlipped about their genetic proclivity for human flesh, and why her father seems to be so cool with it. One thing is for sure. With this foray into the horror of family secrets and adolescence, director Julia Ducournau has set French cinema on a new and twisting path. Cinema needs new blood, and she’s certainly answered the call.

The film is now playing!

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