RATCATCHER, the first feature film by writer and director Lynne Ramsay,
could have been called BLEAK AND BLEAKER. Unrelentingly downbeat, it
tells a story of a family stuck in a miserable existence in the Glasgow
slums. Although the family lives in dire conditions, the movie is never
able to define any of its characters enough for us to care about their
plight. With this rambling movie, which is only slightly better
organized than a home video, Ramsay demonstrates almost no ability at
storytelling. When the inevitable tragic ending occurs, you almost have
to stop yourself from applauding since you are so glad to get this waste
of time over with.
As the story starts, James, a young lad of about 12, is involved in some
innocent horseplay beside a canal. His companion, Ryan, is accidentally
drowned in the process. James is played without one scintilla of
emotion by William Eadie, who had never acted before being chosen for
the part. It shows. Playing the central character, Eadie is asked to
carry the movie, a task of which he is totally incapable.
The rest of James's family are walking clichés. His father (Tommy
Flanagan), for example, is a drunk who passes out frequently, causing
him to drool on the living room sofa. The wife is the canonical
long-suffering type who stands by her man. The only character of any
interest in the story is a neighborhood girl named Margaret Anne (Leanne
Mullen), who dispenses sexual favors to everyone for unexplained
reasons, possibly in a failed attempt to be liked. The character has
potential, but Mullen's lifeless performance doesn't do much with it.
As the characters go from tedious tribulation to tribulation, I found
myself passing the time by observing how Scottish English differs from
American English. The subtitling for the film doesn't try to translate
the words. It just records them to make them more intelligible for
American audiences. Among other words I found fascinating were: heid,
innit and frae.
My wife said it best. "The depressing thing about this movie is that it
isn't depressing," she remarked, shaking her head, as we left the
theater. With circumstances this tragic, we should feel sad, but we
don't because the movie is so poorly constructed and the acting so
RATCATCHER runs a long 1:33. It is not rated but would be an R for
sexual situations, nudity, violence and language. It would be
acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes