Saturday, June 03, 2017

'Raw' Is a Weird, Unsettling Coming-of-Age Film

The French-Belgian film Raw tells the story of Justine (Garance Marillier), a young girl who grew up in a family of vegetarians and veterinarians.  In her first week at veterinary school, she is hazed along with her co-freshmen by the upperclassmen.  As part of the hazing, the new class is splashed with blood and ordered to eat raw rabbit kidney.  Justine initially refuses, but she’s forced to do so eventually.  From this point onwards, things only get darker and more disturbing.

At its core, Raw’s a typical coming-of-age, girl-going-to-college story.  A girl is raised a certain way.  But after she’s thrown into a strange, new environment to be on her own, she becomes enamored with forbidden stuff, experiments, loses her innocence, and discovers who she really is.  Usual coming-of-age plot elements.  Only with Raw, this girl is a life-long vegetarian who, after getting her first taste of meat, sets off towards developing a craving for human flesh.
As a cannibal horror film, being gross and jarring comes with the territory.  But it also has non-gory, non-cannibalism-related moments that are very uncomfortable to watch nonetheless.  This movie is just thoroughly unsettling and weird right down to its subtleties.  And it’s what makes it engaging.

To reveal more of the film is a disservice.  Raw – as it follows Justine’s well-written, well-developed transition from naïve vegetarian to messed-up cannibal – is a disconcerting, fascinating movie.  And it must be personally seen to appreciate.

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