Expectations and buzz are usually a bad thing. If a movie is hyped too much, I’m often disappointed when I finally get the chance to watch it. Raw has been hyped a lot, including stories of people fainting and vomiting during early festival screenings, which usually is little more than a marketing gimmick. Fortunately, this is one that mostly lives up to the hype.
Justine (played by Garance Marillier) is a strict vegetarian who’s about to enter veterinary school. Her parents are vegetarian veterinarians, and her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is a vegetarian veterinary student, so she’s just following in her family’s footsteps. She’s got a reputation for being a brilliant student, and all of the faculty have very high expectations for her.
But when she arrives, she’s definitely not going to get any special treatment from her peers. This is, apparently, a school in which all new students are subjected to intense hazing. Their rooms are invaded in the middle of the night, their possessions are thrown out the window, they’re herded together in their night clothes, and that’s just the first few minutes. And then, as is inevitable for just about any kind of hazing, comes the eating of the disgusting things. Her insistence in her vegetarianism and her objections on completely normal grounds carry no weight, and she’s forced to eat raw rabbit kidneys. The next day, she starts to break out into a rash, and then she starts getting weird cravings.
Raw is a movie that really wants to gross you out. It’s got a lot of scenes whose primary purpose is shock value, and they’re effective even when you have some suspicions about what might be coming. But unlike most of these kinds of movies, it doesn’t sacrifice the story or the characters to do it. There’s at least a somewhat-plausible explanation for everything, and there’s a lot of discomfort that comes from things outside of the film’s main plot line. It may be that its female director, Julia Ducournau, is able to approach the matter from a different perspective than her male counterparts, and some of the most powerful scenes deal with Justine being forced to deal with her femininity in a way that she hasn’t before.
I do think that the movie gets a little too artsy and vague at times, particularly toward the end. Its 99-minute runtime doesn’t feel too padded out, but it could perhaps be a little tighter. It’s definitely not for everyone, and since it caters more toward serious movie fans than general audiences, it probably would’ve been even more fun to experience with the energy of a festival crowd. But if you can stomach this kind of film, it’s just about as much fun as a movie this icky can be.