RATCATCHER RATCATCHER RATCATCHER
written and directed by Lynne Ramsay, produced by Gavin Emerson, with William Eadie, Mandy Matthews, Tommy Flanagan and Michelle Stewart. A Pathe Pictures and BBC Films co-production. A Red Sky Entertainment release. 117 minutes. Opens Friday (February 9). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 65. Rating: NNNratcatcher makes angela's asheslook like The Brady Bunch. This study of a 12-year-old boy's painful childhood is set in the 70s, in a Glasgow housing project during a garbage strike. It's the kind of movie where an open canal runs through the housing complex, the boy's father is a charismatic drunk, and every time a little animal appears onscreen, you know a gang of bloodthirsty boys will start poking it. It doesn't get much more dour than this.
Amid all this squalor and depression, first-time director Lynne Ramsay captures moments of poetic beauty that make the journey through Scottish purgatory worthwhile.
The film opens with two boys, Ryan (Thomas McTaggart) and James (William Eadie), playing beside the canal. They get a little rough with each other, and Ryan goes under the surface and drowns. No one sees it happen, but James feels as if he killed his friend, and Ramsay has set up the film's premise: James dealing with his guilt in a place already teeming with bad vibes.
Ramsay does indulge herself. She takes pains to include a slew of stereotypical childhood horrors and experiences. Yet just when you feel fed up, she takes James out of his surroundings and into his own version of heaven, a half-completed middle-class housing project beside a golden field.
This is James's and our reprieve, and watching him silently wonder at what it would be like to live in a new home away from stinking garbage and the communal outhouse is sweetly stirring.
The child actors are all unprofessional, local kids who are unnervingly natural in front of the camera. Ramsay obviously has a knack for directing children -- they're not only relaxed and animated, but also turn in solid performances, especially lead actor Eadie.
Ramsay is definitely a filmmaker to watch. I just hope her next film is more upbeat.