Ratcatcher

This impressive 1999 debut feature by Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (Morvern Callar) extends the visual acuity and emotional power of her astonishing shorts Small Deaths and Gasman. Seeking refuge from a stultifying home life, a 12-year-old boy (William Eadie) searches for adventure at a nearby canal, where he befriends a vulnerable, sexually exploited 14-year-old (Leanne Mullen). Their relationship is understated yet emotionally truthful, exploring their alternating fear and exhilaration. Sometimes Ramsay relies too heavily on metaphor (the mounting garbage that surrounds their economically ravaged community) to balance out her work, and the children's bleak home lives are too recognizable from the work of Alan Clarke and Mike Leigh. But the film becomes almost abstractly beautiful in its final half hour; with its fluent images and sensitivity to mood, it signaled the start of a promising career. 93 min.

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