For anybody turned off by the continual optimism, accessibility, and warmth of Billy Elliot, Ratcatcher is the movie to watch. It is the emotional antithesis of Billy Elliot in almost every way. Bathed in despair, hopelessness and confusion, Ratcatcher is not an easy movie to watch. Like Billy Elliot, the film takes place during a strike. This time it's a garbage strike in early 1970's Glasgow. The streets in the town are filling with garbage, and rats are beginning to take up residence. The first shot of Ratcatcher is misleadingly serene. Within minutes, James Gillespie (William Eadie) accidentally kills a boy. The two were wrestling in a nearby canal when the other boy fell in and did not come back up.

James does not admit this to anybody. It slowly boils up inside him, affecting him and everything he does. He seems to a withdrawn boy anyway, so nobody seems to notice the difference. Writer/director Lynne Ramsay (Small Deaths) juxtaposes a seemingly normal childhood and soft, near reverential imagery with the horrible internal battle James is waging. Outwardly, he seems only a little disturbed and almost amoral, but inside his confusion grows. He does not have that many friends, except for a strange neighborhood boy that likes animals. He's younger than some of the other boys, who enjoy taunting Margaret Anne (Leanne Mullen). James and Margaret begin a slow relationship, seeking solace in each other.

It is not a matter of running away for James, he merely ignores his actions. He has nobody to relate to. His father drinks and watches football and ignores James. His actions become more erratic as his guilt grows. His only hope is that the government will approve his family for housing and move them away from his small town. With no school or anything else to distract him, he is left to slowly deal with his actions. As he sinks deeper into depression, Ramsay increases the beauty of James' surroundings. It's as if he is moving in one direction and the world is moving in another. Ratcatcher is not an easy movie to watch and will most likely turn off many people. But for those willing to try, it is a moving experience.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 34 minutes, Heavily Scottish accented English with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains nudity, language, and mature themes, probably an R.

Back to Movies