Review / ‘Raw’ (R) ****

BEFORE I saw writer/director Julia Ducournau’s film, I heard electronic media comment, whether apocryphal or exaggerated, that it showed disgusting things. Many movies do that, exploitative, pandering to those who get their kicks from getting or inflicting pain, the more imaginative the better.

“Raw” is much more serious about its raison d’être. It begins on the campus of the veterinary department at a French university where the vegan parents of Justine (Garance Marillier) have dropped her off to start the academic year. Being vegan veterinarians is the family tradition. Somewhere on campus is Justine’s older sister Alex (Ella Rumpf).

Ducournau takes no prisoners, pulls no punches in telling her audiences about the student life preparing young adults for futures as veterinarians. It’s unabashed cinematic depiction of an unforgiving brand of culture shock, preparing for a working life that may bring financial reward but imposes enormous stresses. There’s more to doctoring animals than fixing Fido’s sore leg. Its environment can be dangerous, often working among unpleasant substances of animal origin to treat patients that can’t tell you what’s ailing them. You’ve got to be smart to become a vet.

For nearly two decades my wife and I lived among and were 24/7 involved with production animals. I could tell true stories about their health issues that could make you wince, throw up, smile at their success, weep when the only possible treatment had to be euthanasia. I could tell you about young women who came at zero notice bringing compassion and brilliant skills to help our animals. Those experiences certainly bias my attitude toward “Raw”. If it inflates human realities to burst the envelope of “nice”, it does so with a clear conscience and a truthful purpose.

At Capitol 6

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