Julia Ducournau/ France Belgium/ 2016/ 99 mins
As part of Glasgow Film Festival
Ever since news items mentioned the paramedics called to a Toronto film screening, a feverish hunger has attached itself to Raw to discover just how far the film actually goes. Somewhat frustratingly, such talk is nothing more than effective marketing and typical hyperbole. If you’re looking for something like Martyrs, you might as well just go re-visit Pascal Laugier’s controversial 2008 movie.
In Raw, we follow Justine (Garance Marillier) navigate her independence at university as she descends from vegetarian to ravenous cannibal. It’s a coming-of-age drama meets Hannibal Lecter and it’s a captivating piece of cinema.
Whilst Julia Ducournau’s first feature film doesn’t live up to the sensationalism that surrounds its more violent aspects, it does have everything else going for it. To even imagine that a debut feature of this nature could be so expertly crafted seems almost ludicrous. Yet, Ducournau’s screenplay and confidence in the story bleeds from the screen. When it gets too close to turning people off, out pops a perfect slice of black comedy and suddenly the doubters are back on side. This is masterfully assured stuff.
Speaking of confidence, Marillier is damn near untouchable in the lead role. Her menacing stare is quite unlike anything we’ve seen in some time in horror cinema. At such a young age, this role should seem – at least in part – too daunting a task for her; it never comes close across the entire running time.
As expected, it’s not for everyone and it will sadly let down some genre fans prepared for a new dawn. However, outside of such criticisms, Raw is a special kind of film. As a metaphor on finding yourself and experimenting in adolescence, it’s gloriously unsubtle. As a 100 minute film, it’s an absorbing piece of work. It might put you off your dinner, but it’ll have you salivating for more of the same from the big screen.