Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Best British Films: 8. Ratcatcher

NOTE: This post contains a few spoilers. If you've any plans to see Ratcatcher, skip this entry until you have.

Director Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher explores the damaging effects that poverty and desperation can have on a child's development.

In the first ten minutes of the film, Ramsay effectively sets you up and knocks you down. You're introduced to a young man as he bickers with his mother, and you think you've met the film's protagonist. Minutes later, he's accidentally drowned while playing with another young boy in a filthy nearby canal. This boy is the main character.

Ratcatcher takes place during the garbage strike in Glasgow in the mid-70s. Rats and mice abound, and life is not easy for the poor adolescent James and his family. William Eadie as James is a wonderful and natural talent, playing a young man who grows up in poverty, deals with profound guilt, and is more and more neglected by his drunken father.

The film is visually striking from frame one. The first shot is a haunting one of a boy playing in his mother's curtains, wrapped up and seemingly smothered in the cheap lace. It's a beautiful but disturbing image, the first of many.

James fantasizes about his family moving to a new house on the edge of a field, and has a couple of friends to pass the time, but what truly defines him and his childhood is the poverty he lives in and its terrible repercussions. Ramsay lets filth and beauty coincide in her feature debut, and the outcome is marvelous.

Apart from the tough subject matter, Ratcatcher was a joy to behold. Lynne Ramsay's film is wonderfully arresting and will stick with me for a long time. ***1/2/4


Ellen said...

Just added Ratcatcher to my Netflix queue.

Rae, I'd be interested to see your own ranking of the British movies you've been watching. Think it will turn out anything like The Observer's?

Rae Kasey said...

That's an idea. When I'm done I'll put them in my own order.

I've enjoyed them all so far, but most of my favorites have been toward the end of the list.

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