Ratcatcher is the jolting first feature by Lynne Ramsay, whose brilliant 1998 short, ”Gasman,” told more about one fractured family in 15 minutes than most films do in 120. And once again the Scottish filmmaker slices sharply through the damp peat of stories about gray, working class misery, this time with space to expand her unique vision of bleakness and the human craving for respite.
The setting is 1970s Glasgow, where a strike by trash haulers has left the streets overrun with vermin. While the impoverished Gillespie family waits for a transfer to a new housing project, and while Da (Tommy Flanagan) binges and roars, 12 year old James (William Eadie, a nonpro find) looks for psychic escape, not least from terrible guilt gnawing his guts about the drowning of a neighbor kid.
The parallels with ”George Washington” are striking, but where David Gordon Green’s constricted characters turn inward, Ramsay’s vision of solace ripples outward, uncontainable: The enduring image of this vibrant film is a grassy golden field leading to an unsullied, unfinished suburban house, and James’ phototropic attraction to freshness amid decay.