Ratcatcher (1999)

ratcatcher poster 1999 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Decent underseen drama

Accents will challenge some viewers

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Ratcatcher

Studio: Pathé Pictures International/BBC Films/Arts Council of England

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  May 13, 1999 (Cannes)/November 12, 1999 (UK)/October 13, 2000 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

ratcatcher boy drowns in canal thomas mctaggart

A tragic mistake…something kids could easily do

Growing up in the slums of Glasgow, James Gillespie (William Eadie) and his friend Ryan (Thomas McTaggart) play in the canal behind their homes where a deadly mistake is made.  As James copes with what he has done, the tenement homes that he, his family, and his neighbors live in are about to be decommissioned.  James finds growing up is difficult and keeping his secret is even harder.

Written and directed by Lynne Ramsay, Ratcatcher is a Scottish drama.  The movie was released to positive reviews.  The Criterion Collection released the film as part of their collection (Criterion #162).

Ratcatcher is another film that slipped past my radar until it was picked up by Criterion (which isn’t uncommon).  With a characters as members of the poorest of the poor in Scotland, Ratcatcher you know will not be the happiest coming-of-age story.

ratcatcher william eadie leanne mullen

Just two kids…taking baths together and picking lice…normal stuff

The film deals with James forced to grow up quickly.  His friend drowns after he fails to do anything and he harbors that secret.  The families in the film are also in decay like their poor homes.  The trash collectors are on strike, lice are running rampant, and substance abuse is increasing the problem.  James is also finding a strange love-friendship with a slightly older girl who is also abused and broken.  It feels like a mostly hopeless situation as action must be taken.

William Eadie is very young and looks it.  The movie puts him in a lot of adult situations and has him sexually active with an older girl played by Leanne Mullen (who is also sexually assaulted by James’ friends as she tries to figure her life out).  The cast is largely made up of unknowns, but Tommy Flanagan who plays James’ father had a number of acting credits before (and has made a rather successful career for himself).

ratcatcher mouse balloon moon

Send a mouse to the moon!

The movie looks good and even has some minimal special effects (involving a mouse headed to the moon).  The film also does a good job contrasting the darkness and the dirtiness of the city when James takes a bus to the end of the line to experience nature.  The bigger aspect of the look and sound of the film is the very, very thick Scottish accents.  I didn’t use the subtitles, but there were a number of places where I maybe should have.

Ratcatcher is a rather quick watch at just over an hour and a half, but it is a solid first outing by Lynne Ramsay.  The movie feels like many other movies like aspects ranging from Gummo to The Ice Storm.  Ratcatcher is a nice that it shows a location and characters that are often overlooked.  Check it out!

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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