Written and directed by Baimokhamedov Zhantemir, 'The Rat' is a drama short that charts the adventure of a poor old man who discovers an interesting rat when he moves into a new home. The film stars Saken Moldakhmetov, Yelena Nabokova and Andrey Krasilnikov.
Baikolov, an old Soviet inmate, is finally free after serving his prison sentence. Penniless and broke, the old man is thrust into a world of economic despair as he rents a cabin to spend the remainder of his life. However, he finds out that the cabin is already inhabited by an interesting dweller, a rat who brings money whenever someone plays music. Baikolov quickly discovers this and uses his newfound knowledge to change his fortune, attracting the envy and jealousy of those around him. However, everything changes when Baikolov’s former inmate comes to visit him at his home.
Well made and quirky, 'The Rat' succeeds in its outlandish premise due to several reasons. One, the film is fantastically acted. From its human cast members to its furry star, everyone is in top form. In addition, the central story of a down-on-his-luck protagonist seemingly saved by help from an unexpected place works both narratively and thematically. It is a joy to see the protagonist discover that the rat is triggered by the music, and once he gets to know the creature, it is a joy to see an unshakable bond develop between the two. The film almost gives a tragic ending but shies away from it at the last moment, culminating in a feel-good story that is both heartwarming and moving.
Zhantemir’s direction is solid as he frames the story from the perspective of the protagonist and only introduces the fantastical premise after laying the groundwork for it. Equally impressive is the set design and the cinematography that captures life in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union perfectly. The economic despair set in the last years of the empire hangs over the story like a hammer ready to fall, and it was a masterstroke on Zhantemir’s part to use this as the backdrop for the film.
Therefore, Baimokhamedov Zhantemir’s 'The Rat' is a funny, moving and emotional short that is much better than it has any right to be. The film is thoroughly engaging from start to end, and despite its lengthy runtime, there is not a single dull moment in its entirety.