Whatever else there is to say about it, Julia Ducournau’s Raw is a beast unto itself. Fusing elements of the New French Extremity movement with a more pronounced indie-drama sensibility, the result is a visceral, gritty and surprisingly tender offering that stakes a convincing early claim for the best genre film of 2017.
Justine (Garance Marillier) comes from a family of vets and vegetarians. As she sets off to start university to follow in the family occupation, she reunites with her sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), who has been studying there for a couple of years. As part of an initiation ceremony, Justine is forced to consume a raw rabbit kidney. As she adjusts to university life and all the usual stresses that come with it, she also starts experiencing symptoms of what seems like a mystery illness. Her skin breaks out in aggressive, painful rashes, and more pressingly, she seems to have developed a taste for meat…
Raw is a film of rare power, and one that balances its various disparate elements with genuinely remarkable poise. Equal parts cannibalistic horror, examination of sisterly relationships and rumination on sexual awakening, it’s a stunningly original piece of work that is destined for classic status. Charged with a disquieting eroticism, its ability to unsettle lies not in unrelenting violence, but instead through an almost hypnotic intensity that dials up relentlessly as the film races to the finish line.
A fearless breakout performance from Garance Marillier is the real story here, but in almost every way imaginable, Raw is virtually peerless in its ability to get under your skin both as a horror film, and as an affecting coming-of-age story. With a finale that resonates both with grim ingenuity and an emotional steady hand, this is a staggering statement of intent from a director with a voice all of her own.