Written and directed by Julia Ducournau, Raw is to the cannibal movie what Ginger Snaps is to the werewolf film, to start this review off with some obvious Shorthand 101. Both are coming of age tales, both provide moments that you expect with a number of twists that you don't, and both are anchored by excellent female lead performances.
Garance Marillier is Justine, a young woman starting her university education to become a vet. She is enrolled in the same institution as her older sister, Alexia (played by Ella Rumpf), and ends up sharing a room with a gay man named Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella). She also ends up finally eating meat as part of her diet, now that she is away from her parents and their vegetarian lifestyle. This leads to her getting a taste for more than just the selection available from any butcher shop.
What starts off as a simple tale of a young woman overwhelmed by a new stage of her life at university, and all of the freedoms and opportunities that come with it, chances to both succeed and fail, soon develops into a tale of, well . . . . actually, a young woman overwhelmed by a new stage of her life at university. She just happens to also develop a taste for VERY fresh meat. Justine changes quite quickly, admittedly, but it's not an immediate transformation, and a lot of the first half of the movie shows the typical "growing pains" of any teenager suddenly away from their parents and deciding to create, or rather recreate, their own identity as they move further into adulthood.
Marillier is fantastic in the central role, believably transforming from a shy and sheltered young woman into someone who loses a lot of her inhibitions and starts to wear her difference from others like a badge with "Fuck You" printed on it. Rumpf is equally good, and the two really convince as sisters who always seem to love one another, even during times when they fall out. Oufella has the easiest of the three main roles, but he does well to portray a supportive and friendly figure who doesn't mind anyone else being a bit weird, up to a point.
Ducournau manages to tell this story without making every scene a gross-out one, although she also puts in a number of scenes that definitely aren't for the squeamish (probably best not to watch this while eating a meal). It helps that she has done such a great job with the development of the lead characters, making viewers hope for the best for them, even as things start to look worse and worse. The technical side of things cannot be faulted, especially admirable as this is the first solo feature from Ducournau (having previously given us one short film and a TV movie co-directed with Virgile Bramly, which also happens to be about an eating disorder), and there's also a fine score by Jim Williams accompanying the visuals, as well as a few lively tunes on the soundtrack.
Some viewers may wish they could have more moments of gore, and there's a "punchline" that could divide opinion (I thought it was great), but this is an interesting cannibal film that comes very close to being as good as the excellent, but a lot more darkly comedic, Ravenous.
Raw can be bought here.
Americans can buy it here.
Alternatively, you can always click on either of those links and then shop for whatever you want. Which also helps me while letting you treat yourself.