Thursday, October 19, 2017

Raw (2016)

We're looking at my favourite so far this October. I really loved Raw. Tell me, what's not to love about an awkward, coming-of-age drama with some cannibalism thrown in?

Justine (Garance Marillier) is following in family footsteps by attending a prestigious veterinary university. Her parents met there, and her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) already goes there. Justine's got a lot to live up to; but for this quiet, "average" (her word) girl, that doesn't initially appear to be too much of a problem. 

That is, until "rush week" gets underway, where Justine and her fellow rookies are put through some fairly intense initiation ceremonies. She's nervous but doesn't falter, not until there's one involving eating raw meat. All of her family are strict vegetarians, she says, she can't do it. But under threat of being outcast this early on in her student career and with pressure from Alexia, she caves.

At first, her only reaction is a really nasty skin allergy that appears almost overnight. She visits the nurse who diagnoses it - and then lights a cigarette right there in the examination room, gotta love the French! - and gives Justine some cream.

But the sense of something being off... of feeling itchy and not right deep down in her skin doesn't go away. And gradually, tiny moment built wonderfully upon tiny moment, Justine starts to realise with growing fascination and horror, just what it is she's yearning for.

WHERE do I start with this? It looks beautiful.

Everything looks beautiful. And it has big wide shots with nothing happening in them for a couple of beats, until a little car or a little person appears on the edge or the horizon. This is something, for some reason, I absolutely adore in films - and even replicate in my own photography, a lot of the time.

That this was written and directed by a woman (Julia Ducournau) comes as no surprise. Justine and Alexia are interesting, human, flawed, and beautiful characters. They bicker like sisters do, but they make up quickly like sisters do. Alexia tries to guide Justine and open up her worldview, but also protect her at the same time. It's such a lovely, real relationship.

Including a blackly comic home waxing scene.

Much of Raw's dark comedy comes from the bond between these two, and it's the subtle moments of humour, along with a fantastic performance from Marillier, that coat the plot in a warmth you aren't expecting.

Additionally, can I get three cheers for the normalisation of female body hair, please!

This would make a great companion for Teeth for a double bill, I think (and both are on US Netflix now, at time of writing!). With its depiction of a young woman discovering herself, both in a normal sense, ie: being of Justine's age where she's suddenly thrust into this un-parented world of boys and parties - and this playing out alongside the more extreme, fantastical changes the young woman is noticing in her body, too.

A shy, weird, late-bloomer who's simultaneously terrified of her urges and wanting desperately to indulge them. Justine even fucks her roommate to try and calm the storm boiling inside her. It doesn't work.

It never gets old when female sexuality is represented as well as this in horror. There's so much power in it and it's a monumental task to try and understand that power. Adding something gruesome on top of an already pretty fucking scary time is just the cherry on top of the sundae.

Cannot recommend this one enough.

Bonus: It has one of my favourite Blood Red Shoes songs on the soundtrack, as well as some pretty amazing other stuff to check out.

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