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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Characters struggle and suffer through a garbage worker strike and the squalid living conditions of a Glasgow, Scotland housing project in 1973. While characters do find the occasional small bit of happiness and hope amidst the despair, a powerful sense of characters trapped by their circumstances pervades the film.
Positive Role Models
While resilient in the face of absolute despair, characters are too overwhelmed by their surroundings to emerge as positive role models. Even Da, who is lauded as a hero for saving a boy from drowning, celebrates earning a medal for this by going to the pub to get drunk, where he gets into a fight on the way home.
Violence & Scariness
A boy is shown drowning in a canal after engaging in play-fighting with another boy. Another boy is struck in the side of the head by his mother. Two men find a dead dog. Four teenage boys go around bullying kids, and force a girl to have sex with them in a shed. While not shown, sex is implied through the boys' jeering and the sounds coming from the shed. A white rat is tied to a balloon by the tail and sent flying. A man comes home drunk and bloodied after a fight. This same man later slaps his wife in the face.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A boy and girl of about 12 take a bath together. With the girl, there is full frontal nudity and exposed buttocks, and with the boy, there are exposed buttocks. Three boys encourage another to try and have sex with a girl on a couch. Her shirt is open and her bra is visible. The boy lies on top of her, clothed, while the boys make strong sexual insinuations. Nonsexual nudity: A young girl of about 8 is shown taking a bath in a washtub, naked from the waist up.
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Frequent profanity: "f--k," "a--hole," "s--t," "bitch," "p---y," "bastard," "piss."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The father in the film is often shown drunk. Characters smoke cigarettes, including a young boy of about 12. A boy is sent to get his father a beer. He sneaks a sip of the beer, takes a second sip, then spits it out.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ratcatcher, a bleak yet somehow beautiful coming-of-age story about a boy growing up amidst the squalor and nastiness of a Glasgow housing project is not for kids. Early in the film, a boy watches another boy he's playing with drown in a canal, and struggles with the guilt while yearning for an escape from his surroundings. There is frequent profanity (including "f--k" and "s--t"), scenes where boys take turns having sex with a girl, fighting with some blood, and an instance of animal cruelty. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
RATCATCHER is an unforgettable film that manages to find tiny moments of beauty in the midst of tremendous poverty and despair. The subject matter is bleak -- the drowning death of a boy, a garbage worker strike, a housing project slowly being vacated -- and there are no heroes. Even James's Da (Tommy Flanagan) who is heralded for saving a boy from a near-drowning death is a drunkard who hits his wife. But all of this ugliness makes the small moments of joy for these characters (often found in escape fantasies) all the more memorable.
The terrible (and often disgusting) realities of a garbage strike and a housing project lacking in acceptable living conditions is presented so convincingly you feel like you can almost smell the garbage piling up. The acting is flawless, as is the direction. While the sex and violence makes this not for kids, Ratcatcher is a timeless film, and definitely one of the best films of the 1990s.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.