is the brilliant feature debut of young Scottish writer-director Lynne Ramsay, one of the finest new talents to emerge in world cinema during the 1990s. Her subject matter is the stuff of social realism, but she also has an exquisite eye (she trained as a cinematographer), and a vivid imagination that colours her storytelling with startling, original moments. There are quite a few rats in Ratcatcher
, offering both shudders and chuckles for the viewer; but essentially this is a story about childhood, and the slow death of innocence.
It is the summer of 1973, and 12-year-old James Gillespie (William Eadie) lives with his family on a Glasgow estate that looks increasingly wretched amid a strike by dustmen. One day, James inadvertently causes his pal Ryan to drown in the murky local canal; and he flees the scene, apparently unseen. Thereafter he finds some solace in a touching friendship with an older girl, Margaret Anne (Leanne Mullen) whom the other local lads just use for sexual kicks. (In a lovely scene, James and Margaret splash about in a bathtub like brother and sister, then sit together in front of the TV munching sandwiches; Ramsay excels at directing these young non-professional performers.)
James dreams of leaving the estate for one of the big new houses being built a few miles out of town. (In another fabulous sequence, he romps through the hayfield surrounding the site, under a dream-bright blue sky.) But finally James cannot escape his circumstances, any more than he can forget about his pal's untimely death.
Premiered at the Cannes Festival in 1999, Ratcatcher instantly earned Ramsay comparisons with Francois Truffaut's Les Quatre Cent Coups and Ken Loach's Kes; so you can imagine the force of her talent. But Ramsay assuredly establishes her own voice in this wonderful movie. --Richard Kelly