22
Apr
13

Ratcatcher (1999)

James

James

I first rented Ratcatcher a few years ago. I didn’t remember everything about it, but I remember it blowing me away. It made such an impression, I actually watched it twice before sending it back through the mail. I must have blocked the worst of it out, because a third watch was simply soul-crushing. Soul-crushing.

Ratcatcher is set in Glasgow, 1973, amidst a trash strike and a program to build new housing to replace the council flats where our main characters live. We start off with two young boys, James and Ryan, playing near a canal. James pushes Ryan in the canal. Ryan doesn’t come up. James walks away, carrying a heavy guilt with him, but he never tells anyone what really happened. The following ninety-or-so minutes are absolutely devastating.

James meets Margaret Ann

James meets Margaret Ann

James’s family is desperately hoping to be considered for a new house. James’s father appears to be an unemployed, or at least underemployed, alcoholic who treats James’s sisters preferentially over him. The only friends James really has is a boy named Kenny, who may or may not have a mental disability, and a young girl named Margaret Ann, a constant target of a local gang of bullies.

James’s only respite is to take the bus as far as it goes, where they’re building the new houses. Far away from alcoholism, unemployment and heaps of garbage, this is the only place James can really be free.

James' sister enjoys a sandwich while sitting on a pile of garbage.

James’s sister enjoys a sandwich while sitting on a pile of garbage.

I’m not sure that I can recommend this film. I think it has incredibly important things to say, and it says them very well indeed, but my goodness me, I felt like a shell of a human being by the time it was over. This movie runs you over with 10 Mack trucks and then drops you from the Empire State Building. It is bleak, desperate, and sad. Still, I’m glad to have watched it, and anyone interested in such things should see it as well, but just be prepared to want to curl up into a ball and never get up ever again when it’s over. It bears the dubious honor of being Schlockwave’s first film tagged “soul-crushing.”

I watched it two days ago, and it still hurts.

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2 Responses to “Ratcatcher (1999)”


  1. 1 ladyfaceladyface
    April 23, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Yesss! This is why I want to go to Glasgow!

  2. May 1, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    The first sequence in the window curtain has to be one of the more gorgeous things every put to screen…. Unfortunately, these types of heart rending family dramas really really get to me so I quit after 30 or 45 minutes. I did enjoy her most recent film We Need to Talk About Kevin. Highly recommended.


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