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SCRAPPER (2023) review

September 26, 2023

 

written by: Charlotte Regan
produced by: Theo Barrowclough
directed by: Charlotte Regan
rated: not rated
runtime: 84 min.
U.S. release date: January 23, 2023 (Sundance) and August 25, 2023 (limited)

 

Movies that revolve around father-daughter relationships have been around for decades. In fact, there’s so many, they could have their own genre. It could be a coming-of-age story, wherein the child will learn some life lessons or maybe certain life situations will require an unexpected role reversal, with the daughter needing to take care of the father. There are stories that can be solid, functional relationships between father and daughter or estranged relationships, that have all been either “based on a true story” or come from a place of semi-autobiographical origins. In her directorial debut, “Scrapper”, writer/director Charlotte Regan touches on another father-daughter relationship we see every now and then on screen, that of a daughter introduced to the father she’s never met.

In this case, the father is Jason (Harris Dickinson), a tracksuit-wearing, peroxide blonde ne’er-do-well who drops into the life of his resourceful and independent 12-year-old daughter, Georgie (newcomer, Lola Campbell, in a wonderful performance), one day by literally climbing over the back fence where she lives. This is the house she grew up in and a flat she now lives alone due to the unfortunate recent death of her mother, Vicky (Olivia Brady). She isn’t totally separated from her mother considering she has video clips of her to revisit repeatedly. She’s apparently mature enough to self monitor what stage of grief she’s in by keeping a list of all the stages pasted to the wall.

 

 

When Jason unceremoniously arrives in her life he’s ready to be a father, yet Georgie is understandably not having it. She’s been doing just fine on her making money by stealing bicycles with her pal, Ali (Alin Uzun), her only confidant roughly a couple years older, and conjuring a fictional uncle (hilariously named: Winston Churchill) that the clueless social workers can’t seem to catch on to. Jason showing up ruins everything for Georgie, especially with Ali taking a shine to the 30-year-old absentee father. There goes that tightness she had with that friend. Considering Jason acts more like someone close to Ali’s age and Ali doesn’t have much of a male figure in his life, that’s also understandable.

Considering the themes on display in “Scrapper”, this story could’ve easily been imbued with a downer tone, but Regan has chosen to find the charm, tenderness, and comedy, in the situations Georgie and Jason experience, without sacrificing a palpable realism. None of these characters are played for laughs, nor are the painted with broad strokes. Campbell and Dickinson tap into the nuances of these complex characters, while Regan’s characterization thankfully steers clear of the kind of stereotypes we’ve seen in other father-daughter films, especially ones in which an adult has to grow-up and a child has to have the environment and security to reclaim her childhood.

Working with cinematographer Molly Manning Walker, as well as editors Matteo Bini and Billy Sneddon, Regan breaks up the weight of the subject matter by adding some needed levity. The colors are often warm and the light bright and snippets of talking head shots of supporting characters are interspersed throughout, as is a comical bit pertaining to the projected life of spiders that live inside Georgie’s flat. Much of these methods are used as a coping mechanism for the characters and the filmmakers to counter the grief and doubt these two scrappers feel.

 

 

Filmed in and around Essex, an hour east of London, “Scrapper” captures a certain lower class UK nostalgia that feels like an indie from the 90s. Yes, there are smartphones and other identifiers that indicate this is a modern-day tale, but much of what we see is free of the vices we’ve succumbed to in this era. The only connection Georgie truly has to her phone are the videos she has of her mother on them, which is why when she loses it running from the police with her father, we feel the heartache.

There are elements of “The Florida Project” and “Aftersun” here in Regan’s story, just to name a few recent films that come to mind while watching “Scrapper”. In either films you’d find a self-sufficient child and in one a father who has internal issues, much like in “Scrapper”, but to a lesser extent. In “Scrapper”, we never feel Campbell’s Georgie is in potential danger, but we there is a gradual understanding of both her coming to terms with her need for a parent and his need to remove any doubt he has of being a suitable parent.

“Scrapper” deftly balances a needed sincerity and tenderness in its approach to an emotional storyline, lightly guiding viewers down an honest path in which these two characters inevitable see the need for their bond. They may be unconventional, but it eventually becomes clear that Georgie and Jason are good for each other, and Regan’s feature debut is good too.

 

 

RATING: ***

 

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