Scrapper – movie review

The charming if rough-edged coming-of-age drama Scrapper taps into that unique British genre – the kitchen sink drama.

Twelve-year-old Georgie (newcomer Lola Campbell) lives all alone in her apartment on a council housing estate outside London following the recent death of her mother. Self-reliant and resourceful, she pretends to social services that she is living with her uncle, the improbably named Winston Churchill, and that everything is fine. Georgie is tough and distrustful of most people except for her best friend Ali (newcomer Alin Uzun). The pair steal bicycles and make some money by on-selling them to a local fence in order to pay her rent.

But then unexpectedly her estranged father Jason (Harris Dickinson), whom she has never met, appears. He has been living in Ibiza for the past twelve years. He explains that Georgie’s mother wrote to him before her death asking him to care for her. With his dyed blonde hair this Eminem wannabe is a little immature and inexperienced and has to learn to become an adult himself. Initially Georgie, who is so used to her independence, is reluctant to trust this stranger who has suddenly appeared in her life. The two slowly get to know each other and their prickly relationship is cemented by the end of the film. The connection between the pair is the crux of the story.

Scrapper is the debut feature film from Charlotte Regan who has made several short films and music videos. The film has some of the same rough charm and humanity as the films of elders like Ken Loach and Andrea Arnold whose films deal with socio-realistic issues and themes. There are some rough edges to this bittersweet film, but it has lots of heart and is also quite tender without becoming too schmaltzy. I sense that this is in some ways a very personal film for Regan. However Regan also adds touches of broad humour that alleviates the dour tone. Some of the regional accents are a bit thick and take a bit of getting used to.

Campbell brings a feisty and honest quality to her performance as Georgie, and she is the beating heart of the film and carries the drama superbly. She infuses her Georgie with intelligence,  streetwise sass, confidence and a keen sense of the joy of her hard-scrabble life. But she also captures her sadness and moments of doubt and vulnerability. Uzun brings some nice touches of humour to the material. Dickinson (Triangle of Sadness) is also very good as a young man clearly out of his depth as he is forced to grow up and face responsibilities.

Scrapper has been nicely shot by cinematographer Molly Manning Walker, who gives us a strong sense of place especially with the candy-coloured row of apartment blocks on the estate. She also effectively uses handheld cameras in one scene as both Jason and Georgie outrun the estate police. There is also a fantastical element to the film as some of Georgie’s neighbours break the fourth wall and address the audience directly with their observations.

Greg King

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