Movie #16 2021: Ratcatcher (1999)

I’ve chosen to start this review off a little differently, as I wanted to show you the advertising poster that comes with this film. There’s something about it that feels so stark and appropriate, and it just seems as though it’s something that more people should see. Basically, this is how to make a simple yet effective movie poster!

Ratcatcher (not to be confused with Foxcatcher, as I seem to keep doing!) is the first feature length film by the now-renowned director, Lynne Ramsay. Starring a cast of mostly unknown actors, it tells the story of a young 12 year old boy named James, who lives in 1973 Glasgow. The thing about him is, he is harbouring a terrible secret. At such a tender age, we watch as he tries to navigate life, walking a fine line between the adult nature of his secret and his life at a time in which he should be completely innocent of such matters.

Right off the bat, Ratcatcher is emotionally raw and rough around the edges. Phenomenally captured by Lynne Ramsay, this is an outstanding small budget debut from her. There’s no wonder she’s garnered attention from critics in recent years with films such as We Need to Talk About Kevin and You Were Never Really Here, starring Oscar- winner Joaquin Phoenix.

I knew nothing at all about 1970s Glasgow before, but after seeing this, I feel like I know everything. Quite effortlessly, the film condenses the City of Glasgow down to 90 minutes, leaving the viewer feeling part of these people’s lives. You really know these characters almost immediately, and that’s part of the magic it has. 

Exceptional performances all round, particularly by the lead (William Eadie.) He brings such realism and maturity despite being so young, leaving me extremely confused as to why he’s not been cast in much else. As I mentioned before, most of the cast is made up from people who you’ll more than likely never have seen before, but they all do an astounding job at making you believe them.

Let’s not pretend this is an easy watch, although it does contain glimpses of brilliance. The narrative itself is extremely bleak, with very little breathing room aside from our protagonist finding joy in running through the overgrown corn fields mid-way through (which is gorgeously shot, by the way.) Just don’t watch it if you’re feeling down, because this won’t help at all. It will, in fact do the complete opposite.

Ratcatcher is not always enthralling or exciting to watch (other than the rats in space sequence that I will be thinking about for days now), but it’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking on the whole despite the story itself being difficult to stomach at times.

If independent cinema is your thing, this will most certainly wow you. Certainly a must-see for anyone in that camp.

Ratcatcher is available to stream on MUBI in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

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