1h 34min | Drama | 12 November 1999 (UK)
Glasgow, summer, 1973. Dustmen are striking; bags of garbage add to the blight of council flats and a fetid canal. Ryan, who’s about 12, drowns during a play fight with his neighbor, the jug-eared James. James runs home, a flat where he lives with his often-drunk da, his ma, and sisters, who live in hope of moving to newly-built council flats. The slice-of-life, coming-of-age story follows James as he tags along with the older lads; has a friendship with his quirky wee rodent-loving neighbor, Kenny; spends time with Margaret Anne, myopic, slightly older, the local sexual punching bag; and, has a moment or two of joy. The strike may end, but is there any way out for James?
I attended the screening of Ratcatcher in Glasgow as part of the Edinburgh Film festival where it was very warmly received. At times it is not an easy film to watch but it is hard not to relate to the struggle of the young boy at the centre of the story as he tries to make sense of his situation and to dream of an escape from squalor. The incident at the heart of the story and it’s impact on the boy is developed in an understated way while never leaving you in doubt about it’s devastating effect. The non-professional cast are uniformly excellent, particularly the boy playing the main character, and the film always feels rooted in the real lives of real people continually up against it. The humour and casual violence have considerable impact by being used sparingly and there are moments of great tenderness, particularly between the boy and an abused girl in his street. The film is set in Govan during the binmen’s strike of the late seventies and it looks quite bleak yet the colours are deep and rich. This is a serious film with real depth and an exceptionally promising debut from Lynne Ramsey.
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Writer: Lynne Ramsay
Stars: Tommy Flanagan, Mandy Matthews, William Eadie