Scottish director Lynne Ramsey's feature debut Ratcatcher was more than ample fulfillment of the promise she'd displayed with two different prize-winning shorts at the Cannes film festival. Released in 1999, Ratcatcher was an empathetic, heartfelt portrait of a working-class neighborhood in Glasgow, with stellar and fearless performances from a cast of amateurs. Violence and squalor exist side by side with poetry and rough-edged love in Ramsey's world.
Still only in her early 30s, Ramsey followed Ratcatcher with Morvern Callar. This film was released late last year and is getting its belated Triangle release this weekend at the Varsity in Chapel Hill. Based on a novel by Alan Warner, this movie follows a few months in the life of the eponymous character, a druggy rave chick (that name conjures up images of a goth bar that could be called Morticia's Cavern).
One dreary morning during Christmas season, Morvern wakes up and finds her boyfriend lying dead next to her. Suicide.
The relatively wealthy lad bequeaths her his ATM card and a very hip mix tape which becomes the film's soundtrack. He also leaves his unpublished novel, which he has helpfully left open on the computer. "I wrote it for you," his suicide note reads. Taking the words quite literally, Morvern substitutes her name for his and sends it off to publishers. Meanwhile, she and her best friend Lanna empty out his bank account and take a holiday in Spain.
Morvern Callar is not a plot-driven film. Instead, we're invited to contemplate the spiritual aridity of modern youth, kids who have the wherewithal to throw on backpacks and nose around the planet in search of better kicks. The Spanish sequences are color-drunk--the cinematography is by Ramsey crony Alwin Kuchler--and at times super-saturated. Still, the end result is a little thin, but Samantha Morton gives an always riveting, if rarely likable, performance in the lead role.
It's probable that Morvern Callar will be a minor film in the canon of the talented Ramsey, but her next film will have a considerably higher profile: the adaptation of Alice Sebold's Lovely Bones.