Raw (2016) Review
Raw (2016) Review
Naive freshman Justine (Garance Marillier) is following in her parents’ footsteps by attending the reputable Saint-Exupéry Veterinary school, where her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is already studying. No sooner has the virginal Justine arrived that she, and her fellow freshmen, are subjected to vile initiation tests. During one such test Justine is coerced into eating a rabbit kidney despite her protestations that she is a vegetarian. In gobbling down the kidney something awakens within Justine and she finds herself craving flesh, human flesh preferably.
So much had been made of Raw’s power to induce vomiting and fainting in some viewers that I was absolutely gagging to see it! However having now seen Raw I’m afraid that I probably built it up to be much more in my mind than it actually ended up being. That maybe the case for many other’s that see it. Such hype gets folks interested but it also has the adverse reaction when it doesn’t deliver on what it had been built up as being. This in turn leads to unenthusiastic word-of-mouth and reviews, ruining the film’s credibility and longevity.
French-Belgian co-production Raw (originally entitled Grave) whipped the critical establishment up into a frenzy. They collectively slobbered adoringly over writer/director Julia Ducournau’s first-time feature raving about its symbolism and metaphors. Symbolism and metaphors are all very nice but is the film actually any good? It’s certainly well-made and the acting and camera-work are both terrific but throughout I couldn’t help thinking that horror-based-female-coming-of-age had been tackled before, and more effectively, in both Ginger Snaps (2000) and Carrie (1976).
The film opens with a figure darting across a country road deliberately causing an oncoming car to crash. It’s a grabber of an opener and the film is never short on incident, there’s always something going on to engage the viewer and the momentum never flags. For this reviewer though there were niggles that distracted from his enjoyment. For example, the treatment of freshers throughout is abhorrent. I saw it as bullying and I am not a fan of bullying. I wanted to see someone resisting, fighting back rather than readily be humiliated. Yes, hazing happens but I felt in Raw it was rather extreme and therefore unrealistic and the film needed to feel realistic.
Justine ends up sleeping with her room-mate Adrien (would further education faculties really pair up a man and a woman as room mates?) which is another niggle. The film makes clear that Adrien is gay. On my planet being gay means preferring men sexually. In Raw being gay means willingly fornicating with a woman. As a gay man I found this rather odd. Perhaps I have misunderstood what gay means. Perhaps I am doing it all wrong. Perhaps there’s a deeper meaning to this canoodling – after all the film is steeped in symbolism and metaphors – but if so, I really don’t see it.
Raw confounds further with a last-minute ‘surprise’ – which I will not reveal here – that I felt undid everything before it. It also raised more questions than perhaps Ducournau intended. It’s less of an ‘Oh my God’ shock and more of a ‘What the fuck did you do that for?’ moment. Raw is a mixed bag and certainly not what I expected from the ecstatic critical response. Oh and if you were one of those people that fainted at the film’s screening at the Gothenburg Film Festival or one of those who needed emergency medical treatment, for the same, at the Toronto International Film Festival, please do get in touch. I’d love to know why as I feel I am missing out. Many thanks.