Writer-director Charlotte Regan’s Scrapper is a surreal, quirky, independent melodrama exploring the relationship between family and grief.
12-year-old Georgie (Lola Campbell) lives alone, raising herself and managing grief with the bold sensibility typically associated with adults, after being catapulted into adulthood when her mother died from an unnamed illness. Except with the arrival of her otherwise absent father, Jason (Harris Dickinson), Georgie is suspicious as the pair find their similarities too close for comfort.
Scrapper may offer little in its story, but Regan’s directing over newcomer Lola Campbell in partnership with her on-screen father, Harris Dickinson, is a testament to her ability as a rising feature filmmaker. The pair display a tender bond and moments of genuine connection and growth where both discover harboured feelings towards the late mother. In one sequence, the father-daughter duo sit at a train station and create a fictional story for the passengers on the opposite platform. Here, Georgie and Jason, putting on voices, playfully become two others, a bickering married couple, unburdened by the responsibilities of their own lives.
With experience primarily in music videos and short films, previously nominated for a BAFTA with short Standby, along with Fry-Up screening at Sundance, Regan excels in telling powerful moments in a short duration, reflected likewise in Scrapper, where the shorter intimate scenes breathe life into a film surrounding suffering.
Most scenes are split into asides and cutaways magically and imaginatively fuelled by Georgie’s interpretation as a reflection of her objective narrative, such as spiders who talk in 8-bit video game speech bubbles and a satirical decrepit monotone social services team.
The same social services constantly outwitted by a pre-teen who enlists a local shop assistant to leave voice notes on her phone, splicing them together before playing it back to the unintelligent social services, convincing them she’s under the care of her Uncle Winston Churchill. Interestingly yet still, the film sandwiches in a subjective to-camera interview with its supporting cast as if it amalgamates Georgie’s experiences with a forewarning intended for Jason. Regan triumphs in these details, a continuation of her short-form accolades.
After the sensational storm created by Charlotte Wells with her debut Aftersun last year, winning both a BAFTA and an Academy Award nomination, it is unfortunate then that audiences will compare the two Charlottes’ work as films depicting a troubled father-daughter relationship when both are separate in their tonal delivery.
Where Aftersun navigates the adult reflection of generational trauma, Scrapper is full of idiosyncratic childishness, like Georgie ticking off her stages of grief on a Post-It as if replicating her mother striking items from a shopping list and locking herself in her mother’s bedroom to build an infinite tower to the heavens out of the scrap she collects from bike parts stolen from her estate.
Whilst the British council estate has a specific connotation encouraged by the longstanding conservative government, echoed by the work of Ken Loach, in Scrapper, each house has been painted with luminous colours to mirror the vibrancy of life within. The characters, the setting, and its playfulness prove there are characters, stories, and magic still to be found, as its street-cast lead demonstrates.
Scrapper is showing exclusively in UK cinemas from 25 August 2023.
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