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You may know about Julia Ducournau’s Raw as the “cannibal horror story that caused people to faint at the Toronto film festival”. Yes, it did. And yes, the squeamish should most certainly brace themselves. But Raw is much, much more than just a brutally bloody body horror – though it is most certainly that as well.
Aside from the grisly and guaranteed-to-shock scenes of anthropophagy, Raw is in fact one of the decade’s most brilliant and beautiful coming-of-age dramas, far more a film about the challenges and apprehensions of “fitting in” than it is mindless gore.
There’s nothing mindless about this film. The characters are confused and complex as they head off to veterinary school to do what college kids do – express themselves, find themselves, explore their identities and sexuality. What happens to our protagonist Justine (Garance Marillier) and her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) – daughters of militant vegetarians who took their own veterinary degrees at this most brutal of schools many years before – is something wholly unexpected. Cannibalism, indeed, isn’t present for cannibalism’s sake, but as a metaphor for… Rebellion? Disobedience? Love? Submission? Carnal desire? Yes, to all and more besides.
Raw is shocking. Raw is hard to watch. But Raw is also compelling, at times laugh-out-loud funny, brilliantly acted (Marillier is truly excellent), and one of the most original films I’ve seen in a very long time. Masterfully shot, superbly paced, and beautifully stylised, Raw is a film that cinephiles everywhere should most definitely get their teeth into.
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