Georgie (Lola Campbell) doesn’t need a village to raise her. She can do it herself. Writer-director Charlotte Regan quickly grabs the audience’s attention with this bold statement as Scrapper opens. This kid holds no punches, which aligns with the recent trend of excellent films that tackle headstrong young girls with parents (or parental figures) that don’t exactly know what they’re doing. Examples that immediately come to mind are The Florida Project and Aftersun. Like those two films, this comedic drama is a reminder that children are still people, and if we stop with the condescending baby talk, we can learn a lot from them.
Georgie’s a precocious young girl mourning the recent death of her mother. Her situation has somehow slipped through the cracks of social services in East London, thanks in no small part to Georgie’s efforts. She creates an imaginary uncle named Winston Churchill and uses recordings of older friends to convince said social services that all is well at home. The vast majority of Georgie’s day is spent with her friend Ali (Alin Uzun) as they steal and disassemble bicycles from their local community. They’re using the parts for a special project with a fantastical bent, to say the least.
“…a deadbeat dad who finally decides to look after his daughter.”
Enter Jason (Harris Dickinson), a deadbeat dad who finally decides to look after his daughter. He’s been cavorting in Spain and returns with the worst hairdo of the year. If Robert Pattinson in Good Time has taught us anything, it’s that we should be careful trusting white guys with bleach-blonde hair. Georgie isn’t thrilled to see him. After all, he didn’t care enough to be around when her mom was alive, why does she need him now?
Campbell and Dickinson work wonders on screen together as their character attempt to figure each other and themselves out. Campbell, especially, is a hell of a find, and it’s rare to find such a convincing performance from a child. She has a command of the screen that goes well beyond her years. Dickinson definitely plays off of the young one’s energy. For his part, it’s easy to find Jason’s choices distasteful, but seeing him learn how to parent on the spot gives Scrapper a special resonance. We take directing for granted sometimes, but it’s mighty impressive seeing a relatively young filmmaker in her feature-length debut so convincingly manage two vastly different lead performances.
There are instances where it seems that Regan doesn’t have enough faith in the poignancy of her narrative. We could do without the twee, mockumentary-style interviews that feel too indebted to Wes Anderson. It’s distracting and ultimately serves to undermine the overall emotional core: the burgeoning father-daughter relationship. But aside from these minor dalliances with forced quirkiness, there’s no doubt that Scrapper is a gem, and it features two of the most impressive debuts of the year in filmmaker Charlotte Regan and her star Lola Campbell.
"…features two of the most impressive debuts of the year..."