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Ratcatcher Criterion Blu-ray Review

“Ratcatcher” is a haunting drama.

Set in the 1970’s in Glasgow amid a garbage strike, 1999’s “Ratcatcher” revolves around a young boy (James) who is grappling with the loss of his friend (Ryan) after an accident claims his life. Nobody seemingly knows that James is to blame however. On top of the guilt he feels, James hopes that he and his family will be able to move to a new house as their current housing situation is dire. The accumulation of garbage due to the strike and the influx of rats only adds to the problem. To pass the time and escape his lower class existence, James roams around town, plays with neighborhood kids, befriends a girl named Anne Margaret, and explores his surroundings.

Directed by Lynne Ramsay in her feature film debut, “Ratcatcher” is a coming-of-age indie art film that takes a different approach. This one doesn’t celebrate childhood nor is it a nostalgic piece. Instead, it’s a bleak tale of a kid trapped by circumstances. He dreams of a new home and an open field, but is unlikely to see either. Moreover, James is seemingly unable to escape his past or present. To say it can be a tough watch is an understatement. 

The free flowing style may not appeal to some viewers who are looking for a more traditional movie. There isn’t really a story to be had here. It’s mostly a character piece that is rounded out by allegories, symbolic imagery, and dreamlike sequences (ala the mice on the moon). Contextually, “Ratcatcher” is effective thanks to Ramsay’s sense of realism and Alwin H. Kuchler’s drab and ordinary cinematography which really paints a picture of James’ existence.

There are a trio of memorable performances here. William Eadie (James) gives a very naturalistic and understated performance. Tommy Flanagan (the big named actor here) excels as James’ drunken father George. Leanne Mullen also shines as the neighborhood bespectacled girl Anne Margaret.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital restoration maintains the sort of raw look all while providing a quality upgrade.

Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? The 2.0 track does the job. English subtitles are included.

Extras:
* “Ratcatcher” trailer
* A 2020 audio interview with cinematographer Alwin Kuchler.
* A booklet with credits and essays by Girish Shambu and Barry Jenkins.
* The best extra features here are 3 Lynne Ramsay short films titled “Small Deaths,” “Kill The Day,” and “Gasman” (the best of the lot in my opinion).
* A 2002 interview with director Lynne Ramsay along with an insightful brand new 20 minute 2021 interview.

October 29, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , ,

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