Scrapper review (Sundance 2023) – a charming British comedy movie

Charlotte Regan's directorial debut Scrapper is a lovely comedy-drama with an impressive performance from young Lola Campbell, as well as Harris Dickinson.

Scrapper

London-born writer-director Charlotte Regan makes her feature film debut with Scrapper – a charming comedy movie which sees Harris Dickinson as Jason, who must step up as a young single Dad when his 12-year-old daughter Georgie’s mother dies. Lola Campbell makes an astonishing debut as Georgie – a fiercely independent kid who struggles to accept the presence of this man she doesn’t know.

Scrapper will draw some inevitable comparisons with 2022’s critically-acclaimed indie Aftersun, for which Paul Mescal has just been nominated for Lead Actor at the Oscars. Mescal and Dickinson are both the same age – 26 years old – but are both playing slightly older (around 30). Campbell makes a huge impact, as Frankie Corio did in Aftersun, with an equally impressive performance for one so young.

However, tonally Scrapper and Aftersun could not be more different. Scrapper is a comedy, first-and-foremost, and has a mostly light, heart-warming tone – despite the constant presence of Georgie’s grief over the loss of her mother. It includes flights of fantasy, lots of colour, and is reminiscent of Clio Barnard’s 2013 film The Selfish Giant – which was an modern interpretation of the Oscar Wilde story.

British actor Harris Dickinson’s breakthrough role was in 2017’s Beach Rats (directed by Eliza Hittman), in which he played a shy young man from Brooklyn struggling with his sexuality. He’s since worked with several acclaimed directors, such as Xavier Dolan and Joanna Hogg. He also appeared in the bigger budget Maleficent 2, The King’s Man, and Where the Crawdads Sing – the last of which unexpectedly broke $140 million at the box office in 2022.

Harris Dickinson

Dickinson has already proven himself adept at both comedy and drama. His comedic muscles got a big work out in both whodunnit See How They Run and Best Picture nominee Triangle of Sadness – which were both 2022 releases. Scrapper is another opportunity for Dickinson to deliver really funny dialogue and use his physicality brilliantly – such as when Georgie is trying to teach him her dances.

Campbell’s Georgie has been surviving on her own since her mother passed away, and lying to social services by pretending she’s living with an uncle. She has a best friend Ali (Alin Uzun) who helps her steal bikes to make enough cash to sustain her. Her world is rocked by the arrival of Dickinson’s Jason from Ibiza, and his attempts to assume a parental role, despite them being total strangers.

As with Aftersun, a film such as this rises and falls on the chemistry between the two leads – one an adult and one a child. Luckily, it’s tremendous – and it’s easy to see that Georgie gets a lot of her personality from Jason, despite not having grown up with him. Georgie is determined to keep her colourful little house going, just as it was when her mother was alive – including the order of the cushions on the sofa.

Aftersun

The fantasy elements are interwoven into Scrapper really well by Regan, helping the entire film retain the childlike worldview of Georgie and Ali. Sometimes they imagine what Jason has been doing, and different jobs he might have had, and another time Georgie imagines what Jason was like as a kid.

There are also vignettes where various adults who are tangentially connected to Georgie – but don’t really know her – speak direct-to-camera. The social services office is entirely grey, her grumpy teacher is surrounded by an ironically ‘joyful’ primary school classroom, and her bike shop contact has a cool, dark and shadowy garage. All of these people and settings are exactly how Georgie views them – there is a heightened, and at times, magical reality to her child’s perspective.

Georgie hasn’t been processing her grief particularly well, because she hasn’t had an adult to help her navigate it. She is simultaneously very mature – cooking, cleaning and surviving on her own – but also very innocent. Her ideas about where her mother is now are naive, and shows that she’s definitely been in denial to some extent.

Kes

A really great aspect of Scrapper is that Georgie (and presumably Campbell) has a hearing aid which is never commented on, and it doesn’t become a plot point. Also, there needs to be way more contemporary films about working class characters in the UK, and Scrapper is a great addition to the few good recent ones that we’ve had, such as Sarah Gavron’s Rocks, and Clio Barnard’s Ali & Ava.

Scrapper also joins the likes of Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher and Ken Loach’s Kes by being a brilliant British coming-of-age film (featuring really impressive child performances) – where love and even beauty can be found in what are widely considered to be ‘grim’ or ‘bleak’ circumstances.

Scrapper is a little British gem of a film, anchored by two tremendous performances from Dickinson and Campbell. Regan also impresses, with both her script and direction, at expressing a child’s point-of-view throughout. It’s a charming comedy that weaves in a heartfelt portrait of a child’s grief without ever becoming cloyingly sentimental or laying things on too thick. The script, direction, and acting all navigate the varying tones well – combining to make a light and lovely experience.

Check out our guide to the best family movies.

Scrapper review (Sundance 2023)

An astonishing debut from young actor Lola Campbell, as well as writer-director Charlotte Regan. Harris Dickinson also once again impresses with a subtle performance, and great chemistry with his co-star. Scrapper is a charming British comedy.

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