Written by James Reilly – Student Pages Entertainment Journalist/Film Critic
Raw (2017), directed by newcomer Julia Ducournau, is the French foreign language film that when shown on the Gothenburg Film Festival, several attendants in the audience fainted and vomited. So you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that when I heard that delightful piece of trivia my once full blooded excitement for this film paused.
Now I don’t claim to be a Horror connoisseur. I am a film fan and yes occasionally I do divulge in the horror genre. Most notably for me in the last few years being; The Babadook (2014), It Follows (2015), Green Room (2015), The Witch (2016) and Get Out (2017). All those films, in my opinion, have one thing in common; they managed to transcend the horror genre and be genuinely impressive films. Whereas films such as Annabelle (2014) and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015) care less about being competent, engaging pieces of cinema but more about constructing a 90 minute film that looks good in a 90 second teaser trailer to sell tickets. Please excuse my brief horror rant and allow me to get back to reviewing Raw.
Raw is fascinatingly horrific coming of age film, with an insightful look into what it means to be a student, what it means to be human and what it means to truly find yourself. I went in expecting a gore-fest that felt almost promised by its bloody advertising campaign, but thats not what I got. The marketing department knew what would sell – sex, blood and gore, yet there is more to this film than that. Instead it is a deep psychological drama about a teenage girl, Justine, who we follow through her freshers week, a concept students I’m sure know all too well. She is a strict vegetarian brought on by tough parenting from her mother and father, yet it all goes downhill when she rekindles with her sister who is also a student at the medical school. Cue the sex, blood and gore but albeit in a stylised, intelligent manor.
With films like these, small budget horror films and films in general, for it to be truly great it needs more than just a great story. The cinematography, music and acting are all integral parts of the film that sometimes seem to be left out – whether due to budgetary contrasts or simply because the filmmakers are not capable enough yet at their craft. Where Raw succeeds for me is in the subtle touches. The stunning cinematography, with some shots sitting with me days after watching. The haunting score, which I still listen to regularly on my phone. The captivating acting, that makes me wish for more arthouse films in mainstream Hollywood where actors can truly find themselves in a role. This film seemed to get all the parts of the jigsaw correct, something sadly is not the norm in the majority of film today.
I saw this film twice in two days, I don’t remember the last time I’ve done such a thing – especially for a film in cinemas, the film was that good to me. Alas I do think there are moments in this film that may not be for everyone, it is an art film after all and art is subjective. I for one thoroughly enjoyed this movie and can’t wait to see it again and find all the things I missed the first two times.
Follow James at @JamesisGinger