Raw (2016) – Freak on a Leash

★★★★

“Raw” isn’t one of those movies you can enjoy while eating a lot. But, it’s a movie you don’t want to take your attention off of it. But, at the same time, it feels like you want to throw up. It’s physically torturing the audience, mind, and nutrition, but it’s also not a focused-substance film. Instead, it explores a lot about the theme. Meet the protagonist, Justine (Garance Marillier), who was born in a strictly vegetarian family. After making it through the difficult times on the campus, she refused rawly to eat a small piece of rabbit’s kidney. Her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), as a senior, also forced to swallow the meat.

Justine only vomited. However, the meat also makes her body so itchy. She felt if she had an illness. It made her always feel disturbed and wanted to do something. One night, one of her roommates accidentally got Justin ruffling the contents of the refrigerator. Justine eats raw chicken meat at midnight. Judging from her eyes, she is more than human. Instead, she had an instinct to eat real human flesh as well.

“Raw” explores, not about lust and also cannibalism, a theme about finding oneself. It’s about how humans act to get things whatever they want even though the hard and unhealthy way. In contrast, this film is celebrating the power of women for France. Justine is an innocent girl. She tried to focus on grades and college achievements. Because lust drove her, a wild transformed her and not the same girl too. One of the discoveries she gets triggers her to keep getting what she wanted. No matter whether she killed someone intentionally or not, she just wanted to take what she wanted.

The characters in this film, not only Justin but also Alexia, actually strongly encourage the theme. It’s encouraging characters to blend sexual awakening into the story core. Only, it makes everything more meaningful disturbingly. This is also supported by the direction from Julia Ducournau, a perfect debut from her. She captures visual striking and tantrums about the characters of control disorder with physically ill. All on the frame is never linear even though the story itself is linear but I’m talking literally. The first sequence of the film opens with a disturbing yet distorted scene, hinting at how the film would be filled with many abnormal things. Ducournau utilizes all the small and big moments, slowly revealing every character transformation to the plot twist in the end even though I have a problem with it.

Many moments itself are taken directly from the standpoint of the protagonist. There are many examples of it. There is a scene when Justine is dancing to an edgy song in front of the mirror; it’s one of my favorite scenes. The scene when Alexia cleans Justine’s pubic hair but an accident occurs and one of the best is Justine crying on the bed while we watch her fold from the blanket. In this film, it’s not Justine’s fault. It’s her environment. It makes herself like such person. The movie is no exception to the reveal at the end of the movie. The horror and creepy element came from what the protagonist was looking for. It’s about her trip, how she just wants to finish as quickly as possible yet accidentally her environment doesn’t allow it.

The sibling relationship between Justine and Alexia is well-handled and well-executed. Alexia strives to help Justine through hard times as a freshman. She decided Justine to do all the tasks so that she wasn’t ostracized from seniors. Interactions between their characters deliver us to many charming and comical moments. The subtle reveal at the end of the movie attracts many of the dynamics of their relationship as emotional cores. It’s adding a lot to the story.

“Raw” isn’t original but it’s refreshingly stylish so bold body-horror, no puns intended, in making us think like other films. It’s not just a coming-of-age film, but it’s bold in exploiting a very taboo theme for the public. It’s brutal, has many metaphors along with many layers, and it’s shocking and disturbing at the same time. Performance and direction are extraordinary. It’s grounded and real as well at the same time.