Reviewed by Jonathan Berk
Scrapper is the ambitious, smart, and funny debut from writer and director Charlotte Regan. While not every idea works, the film is quirky and full of charm. It will inherently be compared to Aftersun and possibly My Girl for older audience members, but Scrapper is doing its own thing by bringing genuine laughs before making the tears flow.
Lola Campbell makes her acting debut playing Georgie, a 12-year-old who lives alone in a flat in London after the death of her mother. She is earning money with her friend Ali (Alin Uzun, who is also making his acting debut) stealing bikes. Georgie feels like she’s got a grip on things until her estranged father, Jason (Harris Dickinson), shows up unexpectedly. Jason is determined to get Georgie to face the reality that she can’t continue living on her own, but he isn’t sure he’s ready to be a dad.
Campbell is an instant on-screen presence to watch out for. Tasked with carrying the majority of the film and doing so effortlessly, her delivery of dialogue is very natural, and the scenes that ask her to be emotionally vulnerable work incredibly well. She has strong chemistry with Uzun, making their scenes feel very organic. One scene, in particular, has Uzun explaining how a vampire and werewolf hybrid creature could be made that just feels like two teenagers being teenagers. However, the film's full success comes from the interactions with Dickinson and Campbell.
Dickinson was excellent in Triangle of Sadness last year and continues that level of performance in this film. He expertly portrays desperation and fear as the character struggles to know how to approach his daughter. The conflict between them and the clear stakes it results in make the film’s emotional scenes land like a punch to the gut. At the same time, you’ll get these touching moments where they get to know each other and have a bit of fun as they bond. Campbell has to do a lot in her performance to make these scenes reflect the character’s initial attitude and gradual change. It’s an impressive performance.
Regan takes some interesting swings in the filmmaking style. One element that doesn’t quite work — or at least isn’t given any context — is documentary interviews. At various times throughout the film, the aspect ratio will change to a square, and ancillary characters directly address the camera and comment on Georgie’s situation. It doesn’t completely take the audience out of the film, but it is jarring and seemingly disconnected.
Fortunately, Regan has some strong visual instincts that work, particularly in the scenes that take place in Georgie’s mind to one degree or another. She and cinematographer Molly Manning Walker shoot these surreal moments exquisitely, establishing Regan as a clear stylistic voice.
Scrapper is a powerful and fun coming-of-age story full of great performances. The story feels clearer than what Aftersun was doing, and, at least for me, made this a better viewing experience. The stylistic flourishes that Regan brings mostly work in terms of storytelling, and linger in one’s memory once the film concludes.
Scrapper opens in theaters on Aug 25.