For all its gross-out infamy, I have to say Raw is a great coming-of-age film that’s been submerged in the bloody disgusting world of cannibalism. There’s nothing quite like it out there and for being a directorial debut, this film is rather spectacular. First-time director Julia Ducournau not only made an excellent exercise in horror, but was careful in supplementing the gratuitous violence with real emotion, a riveting sibling rivalry and one of the most original coming-of-age stories I’ve ever seen.
Initially, when this movie came out everyone was talking about how countless people were vomiting and fainting due to the horrific imagery as if it were 1973 and they were watching The Exorcist for the first time, discounting this terrific directorial debut as some deviant exercise in grody filmmaking. Well, to those people I have to say, grow up. We live in post-Ichi the Killer & Cannibal Holocaust film, I understand people are sensitive to such violent imagery but that’s no reason to discount what’s actually a unique take on sexual awakening and human nature as a cheap horror flick. Then again, this film is also a directorial debut and as great as it is, there are certain flaws here and there that can’t be ignored, something extremely common for first-time director unless you’re Orson Welles. So, I just want people to approach this film realistically and take it for what it is, embracing the cinematic experience Ducournau has crafted and basking in its untamed directing voice.
If anything’s for certain about this film is that Julia Ducournau is headed for bigger and greater things. Demonstrating such a voracious cinematic voice in her initial feature only signifies a bright future, with Raw she never holds back, embracing her vision to the fullest and presenting it as is. Ducournau exhibits a command of the camera that several veteran directors lack and her direction of main actress Garance Marillier is especially phenomenal. Likewise, Marillier is astonishing, transforming before the camera from a naïve cub into a ferocious bear, it’s wild and unpredictable in the best kind of way.
As for the flaws I mentioned earlier, those have to do with the film clearly presenting itself as a directorial debut. As entertaining as Raw is, it’s still a building block looking to be improved, no to say the building block is bad, but it’s still a stepping stone en route to success. Besides the acting provided by Marillier which is simply amazing, the rest of the cast does come off somewhat exaggerated at times, especially Ella Rumpf’s Alexa who’s played to great effect by her yet seems entirely like a larger-than-life character. Besides that and a couple of unresolved subplots there isn’t much wrong with Raw, just a lack of directorial experience that prevents it from being a grand film and swamps it in the still great realm of awesome films.
First and foremost Raw should be applauded as a fantastic directorial debut. It’s a fantastic calling-card for proven emerging talents Ducournau and Marillier. It certainly has its flaws here and there, a default quality of the majority of great directors’ first films, but because of its resounding greatness in its exploration of sexual blossoming and identity identification, Raw proves to be an ever-entertaining merger between coming-of-age tale and the horror genre.