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RATCATCHER (1999, GBR) Movie review, plot, trailer, rating

Today, the renowned Scottish art filmmaker Lynne Ramsay (We Need To Talk About Kevin, You Were Never Really Here) presented this authentic and naturalistic drama about growing up in the poorest parts of Glasgow in 1973. Although in the opening footage “Ratcatcher” may seem like another in a series of typical sentimental Brit-dramas about growing up in various parts of the UK that have completely changed in the meantime, it quickly becomes clear that this is not one of those films. In the introductory arty scene, the boy looks out of the apartment window and the curtains, and then his mother appears, slaps him and the boy goes outside the building.

Only then comes the shock because the environment in which this boy and all the characters we will soon meet live is truly terrifying. This movie “Rat Hunter” is not called nonsense because the story is set in the poorest parts of Glasgow in the seventies, in the dilapidated social housing where the worst misery lives. The situation is all the worse because the scavengers are on strike and these blocks are literally littered with garbage, and the children’s main hobby and game is catching rats crawling on the streets and feasting on all this huge garbage. And the story starts really shocking. The boy we see in the opening scene soon after going out on the street will drown in a nearby canal. The focus of the story then shifts to another boy, James, who actually pushed this first boy into a dirty canal and then ran away when he realized what he had done, hoping no one saw it.

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By the end of the film, James will be haunted not only by guilt, but also by the fear that someone will find out what happened, and in this disturbing, authentic and not at all sentimental drama, we continue to follow his upbringing in this stunning environment. We follow how he tries to continue living as before, how he makes friends and falls in love, but it is quite clear to us how cruel, callous and completely wild the environment is. As with Ken Loach, Ramsay brought together mostly unknown Scottish actors and “Ratcatcher” stands out not only for its authentic surroundings, but also for its authentic British faces and the fully expected lifestyle of the lowest strata of the Scottish (non) working class.

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What is shocking is the complete callousness, the complete lack of emotions. When a boy drowns in a canal, everyone acts like it’s something normal and something that’s happening. While kids are probably the same everywhere in the world, here they seem to be even crueler, crueler, more wild and growing up there is definitely not a cat’s cough. Growing up there is almost pure Darwinism, so only the strongest survive, the strongest, the adaptable, and those who will later become bullies, bullies and savages, as well as their parents. While James’ mother is the housewife who takes care of him and the two sisters, he is an old drunk who constantly gets into trouble and does some of the lowest paid jobs and never has enough money.

The story takes place at a time when city officials are considering demolishing these ancient, dilapidated buildings and relocating people to another, better environment, and James and his family hope to own a beautiful family home. Of course, this is just a dream, and with her first film Ramsey presented herself as an author with a clear vision and unique style. While everything here is truly terrifying, cruel, cold, almost, so the stench spreading through that part of the city can be felt across the screen, Ramsay shot the film in diametrically opposed tones. The film is almost lyrical poetics, stylized, gentle tones that seem to try to emphasize the difference between the dreams, hopes and desires of this unfortunate boy and the reality he is experiencing and hopelessness from which there is probably no way out. Rating 8/10 .

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