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Justine, played by newcomer Garance Marillier, is on her way to veterinary college. She is an up-and-comer by virtue of lineage – her parents are veterinary doctors, and her sibling a senior of the same specialized institution of which Justine is joining.
The entire family are staunch vegetarians as well. It’s an important plot point French filmmaker Julia Ducournau provides in the opening scene: a lunch pitstop on campus move-in day sees mom going ballistic due to a cafe’s culinary ignorance when they include meat in Justine’s dish.
That vegan upbringing however, is challenged when Justine must devour a rabbit’s kidney as part of the college’s hazing tradition. The weeklong initiation triggers a downward spiral for the promising student, as well as her gay roommate Adrien (Rabah Nait Oufella), who is also struggling with identity in the face of overwhelming college depravity.
The stunt awakens Justine’s thirst for meat, but naturally, she is hesitant to embrace her sudden carnivorous reality. She attempts to hide her desires from Adrien and sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), but she finds solace in their support. Ducournau ensures audiences experience the horror with Justine and her confidants. We hang on the edge of our seats when she struggles to control herself during sexual encounters, and we cower at Justine’s quivering satisfaction of devouring raw chicken.
Alexia is seemingly unfazed by Justine’s behavior and we can only assume she’s either learned to control similar desires, or she’s truly an understanding sibling. But that overreactive mother-moment at the cafe suddenly becomes clear to the viewer. Justine was raised vegetarian to avoid this horrifying alternative. Is it genetic? Is anyone safe?
Raw is a study about one young woman’s self-discovery and transition from sheltered youth to carnal adulthood. Using cannibalism as a vehicle for exploring independence and sexual awakening is clearly unorthodox, but Ducounau weaves this parable among poetic scenes of animal dissection and explicit college behavior that’s more than just hypnotic filmmaking, it’s also riveting commentary about our primal urges. The film doesn’t go off in tangents and it isn’t inexplicably violent or gory; Ducounua keeps the pace and message on point, an impressive feat for a feature debut.
Be warned though. This movie isn’t for everyone, made clear by the ambulance called to the Toronto International Film Festival when a pair of moviegoers passed out in the audience. If you can stomach scenes of body horror, then I’d recommend adding it to your must-see list.

Raw is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Chris Giroux
Chris Giroux is founder and editor-in-charge at Movie Reelist, an entertainment news and review blog serving the most fanatic moviegoers. Chris started his publication in Detroit in 2010 and has since reviewed hundreds of films and interviewed numerous talent across the country. He is an avid film festival attendee and red carpet photographer, having shot the likes of Steven Spielberg, Bill Murray, Mark Hamill, and more. Chris grew up in New Mexico, where he studied mass media writing while working in post-production and multimedia authoring. It is also where he discovered Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York, resulting in an unhealthy Kurt Russell obsession.


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