I Was a Rat

Adapted from a best-selling children's book by Philip Pullman, this BBC film starts with a clever premise, leaving “Cinderella” behind to follow the story of her coach boy, who was conjured up from a rat. Of course, the coach boy should have changed back into a rat at midnight, but if one can get past this apparent oversight, the film offers some modest pleasures, due largely to a cast that includes Tom Conti, Brenda Fricker, Edward Fox, Ned Beatty, and Don McKellar. Showing up one rainy evening on the doorstep of a childless couple (Conti and Fricker), the boy can't remember who he is or where he came from; the only thing he knows for sure is that he used to be a rat. The kindly couple adopt him, but in true Dickensian fashion he's soon separated from them and forced to endure a series of nightmarish episodes at the hands of cruel and insensitive adults. Laurie Lynd's direction is completely by the numbers, although production designer Venita Gribble does a credible job evoking Victorian England. 105 min.

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