“Now that I know you, I can’t really not know you.”
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.
“A Russian capitalist, and an American communist.”
Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s oeuvre is darkly comedic social satire and — after an intriguing opening focused on a pair of social media influencer models — Triangle of Sadness levels its sights at the soft target of the ultra-rich on a cruise. Like a Jordan Peterson fever dream, heirarchies emerge everywhere, both between and within the guests and staff — this is contrasted by repeated lip-service to equality, such as one guest demanding the staff take a swim, believing this to be a generous gesture rather than hugely disruptive. The division bears similarities with The Menu, both featuring a lavish experience for small group of wealthy guests and willing to satirise both sides of the service divide. However, despite running over half an hour longer, Triangle of Sadness has far less to say, instead taking great pleasure in torturing its characters through a dinner ruined by seasickness that precipitates a descent into darkness. Its best-delivered message is the suggestion that people do not hold ideologies at all, merely manufacturing them based on circumstance to justify their own behaviour (the Captain directly quotes Noam Chomsky’s lack of interest in people’s self-perception as “they make up some construction that justifies what they do”), something we experience in full as the film reaches its conclusion.
“Reputation is what people think of you. Character is what you are.”
Duke of Oxford
The third entry in the Kingsman series is an origin story for the secret organisation, told through an alternate history First World War. Vaughn perhaps wished to make a war (or indeed anti-war) movie, and he does produce some sobering footage of the chaos of trench warfare. Ralph Fiennes is a fine precursor to Colin Firth’s gentleman spy, but the Duke’s pacifist desire to shield his son, Conrad, from war feels at odds with the world of Kingsman, and the resulting focus transforms a franchise known for its excess into a tedious matter of fictional politics. Indeed, aside from a brief excursion to Russia to assassinate a scenery-chewing Rhys Ifans as Rasputin, it is only the film’s final half hour that truly feels like a Kingsman film at all. Much of my criticism lies in the script, plagued by awful dialogue and pacing — notably, this is Vaughn’s first film without Jane Goldman, his longstanding screenwriting collaborator. Transferring the authorship of Wilfred Owen’s most famous poem to Conrad is cheap writing and unnecessary revisionism, worst still as the boy has not even been to the front when he supposedly pens it. I criticised the lack of women in The Golden Circle and the situation has not improved, with Gemma Arterton being the sole noteworthy character. The best thing about The King’s Man is that it will surely free Vaughn to move on to other projects outside the franchise. Whether he can return to the rising star I heralded with his exceptional first three films remains to be seen.