Ratcatcher (UK, 1999)

463369Ratcatcheronesheet1500x726Directed by: Lynne Ramsay. Having recently scored by blindly discovering British director Andrea Arnold, I judged this book by its cover—a lovely minimal Criterion design—and took a chance on Lynne Ramsay and her story of working glass Glasgow childhood in the garbage strike of the 70’s. I was certainly not disappointed. If you like British films, or arty films, or films about childhood, or films about poor people, or all of the above, check this out. With my small vocabulary on such matters, I detect a certain lineage to Ken Loach, especially the famous Kes, (not to mention Arnold’s Fish Tank) for the way that the film uses animals and their domestication, their well being or their deaths as allegorical motifs to the children trying to grow up and make a life in working class Britain. As with those other films, the world of Ratcatcher is abysmally bleak, and yet, there is a heart beating at the center of it, a true tenderness and familial love between them, that it leaves the viewer almost envious of this kid’s environment, garbage and all. That love relationship between the boy and the older girl is one of the most unique and striking relationships I’ve seen on film, with amazingly naturalistic performances by William Eadie and Leanne Mullen. I was instantly drawn into the film with its use of false-protagonist-identification (as I call it)—the tremendous economy with which Ramsay introduces a child character for us to identify with, whose death, barely five minutes into the film, provides the catalyst for the following 90 minutes. This is some real deal stuff. And the performances by those kids, as well as the main parents Tommy Flanagan and Mandy Matthews, who both leave memorable impressions, was nothing short of amazing. Apparently this one didn’t get a wide theatrical release, but keep an eye out for Lynee Ramsay at your local arthouse cinema. Also, I recommend subtitles to get through all that Glesgie talk.


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