Raw is not a movie for the faint of heart. Garance Marillier plays a young woman, raised a vegetarian, who, as the movie begins, heads off to veterinary school, following in the footsteps of both her parents & her older sister. Once there, however, a hazing ritual culminates in her tasting meat for the first time and this experience begins to awaken some . . . well, some rather strange desires within her. I really can’t express to you just how disturbing this movie is. It’s incredibly violent at some points, but the disturbing content runs deeper than that. There’s a lot of quite gross biological imagery surrounding what appears to be actual medical procedures being performed on real animals; nothing in the area of animal cruelty, but just strange and disturbing imagery, like a really unsettling scene where a horse is put under anesthesia in order to undergo surgery. The film has a very disjointed style, disorienting with a dissonant industrial score and as the film goes on, the content gets more and more disturbing. Mark my words, Raw will find your taboo button and not just push it, but beat it with a hammer. The desire for meat (of increasingly strange kinds) is deeply tied to a sexual awakening within the originally virginal Justine and Marillier pulls no punches in her incredible performance. It’s a deeply, profoundly upsetting performance and it’s shocking to realize that this is actually Marillier’s feature debut; it’s the feature debut for writer-director Decournau as well. They’ve both done shorts before, but there’s no easing into feature films for these two; they leap in with both feet with what can only be called an incredibly distinctive calling card. Marillier has an incredibly difficult role and, at only nineteen, it wouldn’t be a huge insult to say she couldn’t pull it off, but she absolutely throttles the role and I’m honestly pretty sure I’m not going to see a better female performance all year. I mean, it would have to go a long way to beat this one; a long, long way. Decournau & Marillier have both jumped right to the top of my “to watch” list; I can’t wait to see what they do next, though they will have to stretch quite far to even equal what they’ve created here. The film has a sex scene that immediately leapt to the top of my list of the most disturbing sex scenes in all of cinema and there’s a scene so unsettling and visceral that I actually had to look away. I always try not to do that; I think going to see a movie is kind of making a compact with the artist: I’m here to see what you have to show me. But this one particular scene here did something to me that only one other movie has ever done; it literally made me gag and give a small heave. Decournau won; I blinked first; I flinched; I looked away. A tip of the hat on that one. Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t a film that offers gore and grossness for the sake of sheer revulsion and shock tactics; it is trying to revolt you and shock you in all sorts of ways, but it’s an incredibly deep film as well. Decournau is saying things about sexuality & desire & power and how these things relate to womanhood and most especially burgeoning, awakening womanhood. It’s a deeply uncomfortable movie. It’s offensive in the best sense of the word; it is playing a game of aggressive offense, blasting at you full force, pulling no punches, shocking you, unsettling you and challenging you with an undeniable swagger and a powerful sense of gruesome conviction. Raw is the best movie you’ll barely be able to watch. This is horror at its most intense and reveals that it is possible for deep thoughts and characters and artistry to lie behind gore and taboo content. It’s a masterpiece. Bravo. Bravo. Raw is its name and raw is what it is. Are you ready? 4 stars.
tl;dr – aggressive, shocking, incredibly harrowing horror is gory & gross, but deep thought-provoking themes lurk here; outrageous, extreme debut for Decournau & astonishing lead Marillier. 4 stars.