Scrapper – she’s a cute kid but she’s in trouble

August 30, 2023
2 mins read
Start
7/10

Summary

Scrapper FILM REVIEW

Georgie’s got a dead mum and a dad she never knew she had. GARY STEEL spends 84 minutes watching what happens.

Described as a comedy-drama, Scrapper really belongs in the so-called “kitchen sink” genre created by Ken Loach in the late ‘60s, sans the social commentary of those films, which could sometimes come across as a bit heavy-handed.

 

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This Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner is a quiet charmer about a down-on-her-luck 12-year-old girl, Georgie (Lola Campbell) whose mother has died of cancer. Resilient and creative, she figures out how to con the social services into believing that her uncle is looking after her, but she’s really living alone, and getting by stealing and selling bicycles. Clearly, she’s still processing the death of her Mum but at least she has a good buddy in kind-hearted Ali (Alin Uzan).

Her already dysfunctional world is fractured by the return of a dad she never knew she had, Jason (Harris Dickinson), and a good amount of screen time is taken up by his attempts to win her approval.

On paper, this might sound rather soapy, but the less-than-salubrious setting of East London prevents the film from getting too cute, and the cinematography brilliantly captures the locale. Coping with a loved one’s death and the return of absentee dads are somewhat cliched subjects in 2023, but Scrapper feels fresh, mainly because Georgie’s struggle is very much her own and she’s a unique character. Lola Campbell’s performance is easily the highlight of the film, and her dialogue sounds so real at times that you forget she’s acting. She has an absolutely winning way at expressing herself and perfectly captures this idiosyncratic character who is partly still a child but inevitably somewhat hardened by her situation.

There’s a heartbreaking moment when her dad tries to be the tooth fairy in the middle of the night but inadvertently wakes Georgie up. She’s never heard of the tooth fairy, or the phenomenon of waking up to a coin and a missing tooth. Her Mum had her at a young age and must have really struggled to put food on the table, hence no time for fripperies like tooth fairies. The scene says a lot about Georgie’s pragmatic nature but is also desperately sad.

Harris Dickinson (Where The Crawdads Sing) is believable as the still fresh-faced dad (in real life he’s still only 27) grappling with his new responsibilities and trying to figure out how to connect with the daughter he never met after spending years (presumably) living it up on party island of Ibiza.

One of the few slight flaws in Scrapper is that it never fills in the details, and we leave it after the obligatory 84 minutes still hungry for more information about all the characters and wondering what’s going to follow. It might have made a good TV series. At least it doesn’t outstay its welcome and I’m glad I got to spend an hour and a half with Georgie/Lola, whose sardonic expressions and searching eyes I won’t forget in a hurry.

+ Scrapper screens at independent cinemas from 31 August.  

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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