Children may be capable of growing up on their own, but there’s still some value in having an adult around. The circumstances of a family situation may be unpredictable and influenced by many factors, which can involve an untimely death or other events that force people not to be together as they should. When a single parent dies, the absent other party sometimes returns, a familiar story that isn’t usually told in quite as entertaining a manner as Scrapper manages to do.
Georgie (Lola Campbell) is twelve years old and living in London. When her mother dies, she concocts a way to keep child protective services away from her, telling them that she’s living with her uncle, Winston Churchill. She’s perfected a system in which she has a market employee record short statements that she can play into the phone to corroborate Uncle Winston’s existence. But her independent lifestyle undergoes a drastic change when Jason (Harris Dickinson), a man claiming to be her father, arrives, seemingly intent on getting to know the daughter who doesn’t even know who he is.
Scrapper sets its tone right from the beginning, with the quote “It takes a village to raise a child” crossed out and replaced with “I can raise myself, thanks.” Georgie is full of attitude, ready with a comeback for just about anything and not interested in being told by others what she should or should not do. Her best friend is Ali (Alin Uzun), who is not immune to her snark, yet he enjoys spending time with her, and takes immediately to Jason for one critical reason: the father and his daughter may not know each other, but they’re a whole lot alike.
It takes some time for Georgie to warm up to Jason, and he’s hardly a dependable role model even once he does finally show up twelve years into her life. After Georgie sends him out for Chinese food as a ruse to lock him out of the flat, Jason proves that he’s much more like his daughter than she’d think, resourcefully climbing into an open window to let himself back in. A fun bonding moment later finds Jason all too eager to give Georgie advice on how to quickly and efficiently steal a locked-up bicycle to sell for spare parts, which results in an exhilarating police foot chase.
Director Charlotte Regan has helmed numerous short films and music promos, but this marks her feature debut. Her film runs just eighty-four minutes long but still contains exactly what’s needed to connect with both characters. There are no wasted moments, and though the trajectory of the film may be somewhat expected, the ride to get there is absolutely worthwhile. There is real pain buried under the sarcasm and directness that dominates everything Georgie does, and Regan, also the film’s screenwriter, subtly and smartly unmasks that with poignant dramatic touches broken up by a great deal of humor. Quick bursts of mockumentary-style interviews add to the entertainment but don’t become overbearing or distracting.
This is also the first feature film for star Campbell, who has superb comedic timing and does an excellent job of carrying this film all on her own until Dickinson shows up. Dickinson, whose forehead serves as the reference for the title of the recently Oscar-nominated Triangle of Sadness, presents Jason as someone who knows plenty about life but doesn’t seem to have his together, and it’s just as affirming and endearing to see him connect in a way he didn’t expect to Georgie as the reverse. This is an affecting and lovely film, one that showcases terrific performances and a great script.
Scrapper makes its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, where it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize.