THE STORY – Following her mother’s death, a resourceful 12-year-old girl, Georgie (Lola Campbell), continues to live alone in their London-outskirts flat. She makes money stealing bikes with her friend, Ali (Alin Uzun), and keeps the social workers off her back by pretending to live with an uncle. It works like a charm until Jason (Harris Dickinson) shows up. Apparently, he’s her father — so long estranged that she doesn’t recognize him. Sizing him up as a rubbish dad (absent, messy, can’t cook), Georgie wonders why he’s suddenly taking an interest; especially when she’s doing just fine on her own, thank you very much.
THE CAST – Harris Dickinson, Lola Campbell, Alin Uzun, Ambreen Razia, Olivia Brady & Aylin Tezel
THE TEAM – Charlotte Regan (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 84 Minutes
The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, Georgie from “Scrapper” would like to have a word. She can raise herself, thank you very much, as written in Charlotte Regan’s charming feature film debut.
In “Scrapper,” Regan tells a story that has been told before: a child and an estranged parent reunite and eventually reconnect. But, miraculously, she finds a way to tell her version in a profoundly sweet, caring, and unique way, with two fantastic actors leading the charge and a few stylistic flourishes. The end result ends up being a heartwarming comedy that seamlessly balances more challenging subjects, like grief through the eyes of a 12-year-old.
Ever since her mother’s death, tween Georgie (Lola Campbell) has been on her own and has found unique ways to evade social services. She enlists the help of a friendly shopkeeper to record a few voice memos that come in handy when social workers call and ask for her fictional Uncle Winston Churchill. To keep up her finances, she and her friend Ali (Alin Uzun) make money by stealing bikes and selling them – quite a lucrative business for two seemingly sweet kids. In a few mockumentary-style interviews with classmates and other adults in the film, viewers get a clear sense of the interesting reputation the 12-year-old has garnered for herself already (although she’s popular among spiders, who also give their opinions in the film).
In her debut performance, Campbell naturally nails the comedic moments, whether lying to almost everyone around her or going the extra mile to protect her current situation. But, she also can balance the grief that her character feels, even though she doesn’t want to admit it to herself or anyone else. We see her fix the living room couch to look exactly how it was when her mother last saw it, and she freaks out whenever someone wants to change it.
This precocious child seems to have everything figured out until her father, Jason (Harris Dickinson), who abandoned her and her mother years ago to live in Spain, turns up one day. It’s not a grand reunion in any sense; Georgie wants nothing to do with him, nor does Jason particularly have any paternal instincts. But, he ends up being useful in her attempts to ward off snooping adults, and over the course of the film, they realize there could be a way to be in each other’s lives.
What follows is a fairly standard story of them reconnecting, discovering all the things they have in common, and sharing a number of sweet moments together. We’ve seen it before, but “Scrapper” works because of Campbell and Dickinson’s chemistry. At first, neither of their characters are overly excited to be with the other, with Georgie trying to keep Jason locked out and Jason threatening a call to social services to mess everything up for her. But, the more time they spend together, the softer they become. There are plenty of delightful scenes between them, like when Georgie tries to teach Jason a few dance moves and makes fun of him or when they start impersonating two people at a train station. You can tell that Campbell and Dickinson are having a blast together as they giggle their way through several moments. In particular, Dickinson shows us a lovely new side of him, not only as the gym rat-looking, bad-boy father who returns after so long but also as a gentle scene partner guiding a young newcomer.
With an 84-minute runtime, “Scrapper” moves briskly, which doesn’t give Regan much time to dig deeper into all the baggage between Jason, Georgie, and Georgie’s late mother. We learn that Jason and his partner had Georgie when they were far too young, and, only thinking about himself, he left to pursue a fun life in Spain. Regan touches on how this affected Georgie and her mother. Still, it would have been even more compelling to explore this part of the past and see Campbell and Dickinson’s characters really go in on all the hurt they’ve experienced through the years.
Even if it doesn’t go as far as it could have, “Scrapper” is still a delightful, heartwarming story that, even if similar to others, is too cute to ignore. Aside from wonderful performances from Campbell and Dickinson, the balance between reality and occasional moments of fantasy show up beautifully on-screen thanks to cinematographer Molly Manning Walker, production designer Elena Muntoni, and costume designer Oliver Cronk. They focus on playing pops of color, like her classmates’ bright pink outfits or the clouds painted in her bedroom, in an otherwise ordinarily-drab British setting.