Scrapper (2023)

Scrapper, an inventive, award-winning first feature written and directed by Charlotte Regan, was the crowd-pleasing opening film of the Sundance London Film Festival.

People Who Need People

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Scrapper is the story of Georgie (Lola Campbell), a self-assured, apparently self-sufficient 12-year-old tomboy, trying to cope with her grief at the death of her mother.

She still lives – alone – in their house, lying to Social Services that she is being looked after by an adult (her uncle Winston Churchill), and she’s intent on keeping everything as it was, even down to the arrangement of the cushions on the sofa where her mother rested. She funds herself with bike theft helped by her best friend Ali (Alin Uzun).

Her life is disrupted when her longtime absent, 30-year-old slacker father Jason (Harris Dickinson), whom she has never known, suddenly reappears after 12 years working in Ibiza to live with her and won’t go away, no matter how hostile she is to him.

Georgie is a scrapper, a fighter, who is tough and angry enough to beat up another girl. But also, in the grief she cannot express, she has built a tall scrap-metal tower from stolen bike parts in her mother’s empty bedroom (that she keeps locked), because her dying mother told her she was going to the sky after she died.

Cinematography, by Molly Manning Walker (director of 2023 Cannes Un Certain Regard-award-winning How to Have Sex), is unexpectedly pastel coloured (Georgie’s otherwise dreary housing estate), cutting across what could have been the grimness of the subject matter.

As do the inventive magical realism/fantasy sequences of alternate realities and the various revealing comments to camera including those by the pink-girl gang (Georgie’s nemesis); the female fence who buys the bikes Georgie steals; and Georgie’s too-easy-to-fool (gullible/uncaring) social workers.

Scrapper, despite its underlying serious issues and inherent class comment, is a heart-warming, funny crowd-pleaser of a film, so it’s no surprise it wowed audiences at the US Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, where it won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize. It’s lovely.

The father-and-daughter chemistry is brilliantly caught by Campbell and Dickinson: he’s a surprisingly versatile actor to watch out for in future, previously the male model in Cannes Palme d’or-winner Triangle of Sadness. Lola Campbell is a real find.

It’s touching to see the estranged father and daughter learning to get on – and both child and adult grow in maturity over the course of the film.

Admirably, there’s no mention of the fact Georgie is deaf and wears a hearing aid. How does the director want people to feel after her film? Happy, she said.

If the Children’s Film Foundation still existed in its original form, Scrapper might have been a film they funded.

Scrapper premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, screened at Sundance London and is released by Picturehouse on 25 August 2023 in the UK. Charlotte Regan and Harris Dickinson join us at The Ritzy for an unmissable opening night Q&A screening.
Friday, 25 August.

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