“Raw” is a remarkably confident, self-assured, well-made debut film from French director Julia Ducournau. It’s a tale of feminine self-discovery (delightfully so, not watered-down in the slightest) filtered through both the coming-of-age genre and through cannibalism.
The premise of the film is already unique and complicated enough that Ducournau pulling it off (which she did, unequivocally) would be impressive, but it tackles so much more as well – the way the first confronting ethical choice one is confronted with as an adult comes to define so much of one’s self given that it’s the first time one negotiates their own identity solely through their own agency rather than that of their parent’s or society’s, the way physical transformation complicates the way one defines themselves, all the issues surrounding heading off to university alone (hazing, loneliness, sexual awakening, family legacy, etc.), and all the while realising two sister’s relationship in a very real and nuanced way. Ducournau and lead actress Garance Marillier exceed all expectations in delivering on all those ideas.
Ducournau’s handle on tone is also very impressive. Of course the body horror, moments of tension and shock, and genre elements of the film are absurd compared to the very grounded way it handles young adulthood and university life, but Ducournau marries them in a way that feels very cohesive. The film is filled with many great moments of humour too, but while some feel self-aware in a way, none break the immersion and sense of reality that Ducournau builds up. Perhaps it was overly due to the shared cannibal aspects, but it reminded me of Bryan Fuller’s “Hannibal” series in this way (and in that they both share fantastic soundtracks). All these careful balances lead the film to feeling mythic in a way, almost like a fairy tale or Biblical story set ostensibly in a very real and recognisable world, then treating fantasy elements with the same mixture of seriousness of humour to explore ideas.
It’s a fantastic, memorable film, as honest as it is shocking. I give it four buckets of blood, and a finger.