“Now that I know you, I can’t really not know you.”Georgie
A feature debut from a British writer-director about an estranged father-daughter relationship, Scrapper bears considerable similarity on paper to last year’s sublime Aftersun (both directors are even named Charlotte!) but tonally they are far removed. Charlotte Regan expressly sought to make a working class film that was not “desaturated and sad”, which may sound strange for a film that opens with a 12-year-old conspiring against social services to live alone after the death of her mother but it is handled deftly in a manner at once tender and funny, like Georgie crossing off stages of grief on her wall (“I think I’m nearly finished” she naïvely tells a friend). Regan’s voice has much in common with Georgie which elevates her writing above middle class perceptions of working class interaction, and she coaxes wonderfully fresh performances from two newcomer child actors — Lola Campbell in particular commands the screen as she brings vulnerability to the resourceful and mouthy Georgie. Though Regan may describe it as “coming of age in reverse”, Scrapper is covering very well-trodden ground once Georgie’s father, who abandoned his responsibilities, returns to find an uninterested daughter. Harris Dickinson is nevertheless effective in the role, displaying concern and self-doubt at this new role and the judgment he faces from the community. We see parallel flashes of anger in both performances as the characters resist the fundamental shifts to their lives. The film’s bold visual presentation is at times natural like the leads dancing in an abandoned warehouse filled with light, and at times artificial like the street of terraced houses they painted in bright colours or a recurring joke with subtitled spiders. Whilst this unusual cinematic portrayal of working class life is arresting, Scrapper is still at its best in quiet moments of father-daughter bonding, with an improvisational quality to scenes like simply killing time on a train platform. With little new to say beyond its perspective, ultimately it is Regan’s voice as a writer and director — in contrast to a privileged voice observing from the outside — that elevates Scrapper and leaves me in anticipation of what she may do next.