RATCATCHER is seen through the eyes of twelve year old James Gillespie. Impatient for news of his family's transfer to a housing scheme an the outskirts of Glasgow, James spends the summer playing at a nearby canal, amongst the mounting rubbish (due to a protracted refuse workers strike). Whilst in the water with a neighbours boy, Ryan, a childish game gets out of control and Ryan drowns. Nobody witnesses the accident and James alone knows that he is implicated in the death. His fascination with the canal escalates and he is drawn to it time and again.

With his growing guilt comes increasing isolation from his family. He feels particularly alienated from his father and when he sees him returning drunkenly home with another woman, he becomes firmly set against him. Nearly
everything his father does reminds James what he is destined to become, and he spends less and less time at home, finding his father's oafish, although rarely malicious, presence intolerable.

Drawn to the canal, James meets fourteen year old Margaret Anne, a naive giri whose throwaway observations about the drowning lead James to deny ever knowing the dead boy. He contents himself with the babbling company of the animal-loving Kenny, one of his neighbours, and the bravado of Matt Monroe's gang, who take him to Margaret Anne's flat. There he is expected to keep an eye out for her mother as the gang takes tums in a room with her. The boys egg James an to take his 'tum'. Unexpectedly, a moment of real tenderness passes between them.

One day, seeing his sister get an a bus, he steals a few coppers from his Da and follows her. The urban landscape tums into countryside and at the terminus James wanders around the unfinished houses of a new scheme, discovering a field where he has the freedom to lose himself.

A relaxed intimacy grows between James and Margaret Anne and when alone, they are playful and tender towards each other. At home, Da does not really notice that James is absent a lot these days, seeing a quiet house as an opportunity to nap. One afternoon, he is roused from his slumber by Kenny's mother. Rushing out in his underwear, he saves her son from drowning. Retuming home sodden and half naked, covered in muck and itching from the canal, he is met by council inspectors who have chosen this moment to assess the family for a new house.

11Da becomes an accidental hero. The family is in a festive mood when, covered in scabs from the polluted water, Da collects a goid medal for bravery from the Lord Provost. In celebration, the family dance happily together at home while Da goes out drinking. On his way home he is involved in a ruckus with some local boys. Humiliated and drunk he retums in a violent mood and slaps their mother. For James, briefly proud of his father again, this is too much. He runs into the night and heads for Margaret Anne.

A convoy of army trucks arrive in the street to clear the rubbish. James watches the chaos for a while before running into Margaret Anne with Matt Monroe's gang. Feeling confused about his emotions he runs off, until exhausted, he retums home to sleep. The following day, James retums to the canal and dives down into the murky water.

On a bright, sunny day, a procession of people cany the Gillespie family's fumiture through James' field as they move to their new life.

Director's Biography

LYNNE RAMSAY - Director/Writer
Lynne Ramsay graduated from the National Film and Television School in 1995 and won the Cannes Prix du Jury the following year for her graduation short film `Small Deaths'. Her subsequent short `Kill the Day' won the Clermont Ferrand Prix du Jury and 'Gasman', made the same year won Ramsay her second Cannes Prix du Jury in 1998 and a Scottish BAFTA for Best Short Film. RATCATCHER marks Ramsay's directorial debut feature which she has made, along with all her shorts, with her film school team.
Ramsay is currently adapting the Alan Warner novel 'Morvern Caller' for Company Pictures and has first option to direct her script.

After graduating from the University of Kent and completing a Masters in Film at the Royal College of Art in London, Gavin Emerson joined Limelight Productions, where he Production Co-ordinated the drama 'Remembrance of Things Fast', starring Rupert Everett and Tilda Swinton and directed by John Maybury. Subsequently joining Alchemy Productions in 1992, he produced over fifty international commercials and promos.
Gavin Emerson founded Holy Cow Films in 1996. He has worked with Lynne Ramsay since he purchased and distributed 'Small Deaths', her first short, after viewing it at the National Film School graduation screenings. In addition to producing all of Ramsay's other short films, he has produced world-wide advertising campaigns for Prada and a documentary about the rock group Radiohead.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Lynne Ramsay

Written by: Lynne Ramsay

Produced by: Gavin Emerson

Cinematography: Alwin Kuchler

Editing: Lucia Zucchetti

Production Design: Jane Morton

Costume Design: Gill Horn

Make-Up & Hair: Anastasia Shirley

Original Score: Rachel Portman

Main Cast: Michelle Stewart, Lynne Ramsay Jr., William Eadie, Tommy Flanagan, Mandy Matthews

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Feature Film Selection 1999