Growing Pains

Raw is an extremely disturbing and jarring film. Having watched it for the second time in our European film class, I was surprised that it imparted upon me the same level of shock it did when I first watched it. It definitely deviated from the usual coming-of-age film through its usage of repulsive themes such as gore and cannibalism, but it employs them so wonderfully liberally as to capture the animalistic nature of growing up within such powerful and influential forces.

The movie presents us with a protagonist who struggles to find her footing in the veterinary school attended by her parents as well as her older sister. She is depicted to struggle with the initiation procedures imposed upon them by the previous batches of students. We are witnesses to the difficulties she encounters in adjusting to her new environment, making the film relatable to students like us who have been cast into the foreignness of college. Different shots depicting the minutiae of student life makes Raw an effective coming-of-age film. We see Justine experience the burden of her academic workload, the overwhelming noise and chaos of a party, the all-consuming need to fit in — all these juxtaposed against her cannibalistic awakening. These experiences are ones we have, in one way or another, have gone through as well, and the film appeals to our adolescent journeys of self-discovery and struggle.

Her animalistic tendencies seem to bring out authenticity from our meek, fidgety protagonist. For instance, in the beginning of the film, she was made to wear a dress by her sister, Alexia, as punishment for her correcting her sister’s work. A shot shows her fumbling around in high heels on the way to her dormitory, the dress draped over her clothes. As the movie progresses, this image of awkwardness and shame is erased and replaced by shots of her wearing the dress confidently at a party where the video of her in the morgue was taken. This shift was brought about by her being acquainted with her desire to eat human flesh. In this way, the movie sort of uses her cannibalism as some sort of a coping mechanism for the many pains that she was experiencing at the time, albeit a strange and horrendous one. However, the way she chooses to deal with these difficulties created more problems for her as she has become insatiable, and her roommate-turned-crush gets in the mix. The film inevitably spirals into madness as all of these things were brewing.

Raw provides us with a fresh and unusual take on a genre we frequently encounter. Its peculiar use of horror themes in conjunction with painfully relatable moments of vulnerability and anxiety makes the film an interesting and unforgettable watch. In a way, it concretizes the emotional and mental marks and scratches we incur in the process of growing up and coming to terms with who we really are. The elements of gore and horror that the film utilizes is only supplementary to the internal turmoils being presented to us on screen.

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