There are movies that can really be defined as once in a lifetime kind of movies, and once they exist, anything that tries to convey a similar story usually cannot compare to what that benchmark has already done. That is not to say that the movie doesn’t stand on its own or that it doesn’t hold its own merit, but more to say that achieving that goal of striking that emotional epicentre is something rather impossible to achieve. There is every generation’s coming-of-age movie, and if you’re part of a generation that lived on John Hughes, you certainly got spoiled, because the coming-of-age movies certainly couldn’t have been any better than that, despite some of them (*ahem* Sixteen Candles *ahem*) being incredibly problematic. However, I think it is a fair statement to say that Charlotte Wells’s 2022 masterpiece Aftersun is that benchmark, that home run, that once-in-a-lifetime kind of achievement for heartbreak and coming-of-age, which any subsequent movies that can even scratch the surface of will be seen as accomplishments.
This leads us to Charlotte Regan’s Scrapper, which, at its bare core, feels like the same world as Aftersun while being inherently different and complex in a unique manner. Instead of it being a flashback on memories consisting of someone no longer around, Scrapper focuses on someone who didn’t know their father, who’s now finding themselves alone and managing, only for their father to reappear and try to do the responsible thing. While the emotional crux of Scrapper sits with its audience and will linger with them for a while, it still is a home run of an accomplishment and a film, it just didn’t have the bases loaded to make the home run a grand slam. As her first feature both as writer and director, Scrapper certainly brings forth a ton of promise and excitement for anything Charlotte Regan does next and anything she has coming in perpetuity as the premise, execution, and overall impact of the film is simply undeniable and lingers with the audience, making them think about the relationships they have, the ones they’ll possibly never have, and, in the end, making sure they can live with the decisions they have made. As someone who doesn’t have children, if the results of the film left that much of a lasting impact, it can only be ascertained how much this film will hit parents in a much different and heavier way.
Scrapper focuses on 12-year-old Georgie (Lola Campbell) and her friend Ali (Alin Uzun) as they make their mark throughout the landscape of London. Now, what is to be expected of a 12-year-old, with quite literally no supervision or parent around, outside of getting themselves into mischief trying to make the world their own and survive? It is exactly what Georgie does, and while some of the mischief is in a larger scale harmless, something is going to give before things get truly out of hand. Atop of that, we realize her dad is not in the picture and, unfortunately, her mother has passed away. She somehow convinces social services she’s okay and under the guardianship of a hard-to-reach uncle, Winston Churchill. Everything is all good and fun for Ali and Georgie, until one day she sees a rugged looking 30-year-old man jump the fence of her backyard who introduces himself as Jason (Harris Dickinson), supposedly her father. After making a few solid points that Georgie cannot continue to raise herself and she rejects his help, Georgie begrudgingly accepts her estranged father’s help, mainly due to the fact that she is 12 and eventually the bills are going to need to be paid, and a journey of connecting with the ones we thought we lost, finding ourselves, and forming undeniable bonds begins.
Scrapper works for a myriad of reasons, but the most important thing which brings this story of a young scrapper youngling to life is newcomer Lola Campbell herself. Her performance is simply infectious and breathes so much life and character into the role that it is impossible not to root for her success and to be absolutely heartbroken by her situation at the same time. The performance she delivers is nothing shy of terrific and is the emotional crux of the film, balancing the hard predicament and the near whimsical elements of tenderness and joyous infection captured in the film. The other standout is Harris Dickinson (Triangle of Sadness), who is faced with the incredibly difficult choice of, to simply put it, manning up or shutting up. Without spoiling too much, he is aware of the existence of Georgie and that she is in need of someone, preferably him, to be there for her even if he has never met her prior. His character is one who never wanted to be a father, but circumstances clearly didn’t allow for that lifestyle anymore and he tries to be the parent he absolutely needs to be and continues to struggle.
What makes Scrapper important and engaging and touching is that Charlotte Regan refuses to pretend that anything in life is easy; it’s absolutely not. It’s quiet literally the exact opposite; it’s a messy turbulent cluster of garbage most of the time, but it’s what one does with it that matters, and the memories and decisions we make create the world we want to live in. There is no sugar-coating anything. Life is hell and it is simply what we make of it that makes it better, even when those decisions are hard and nearly impossible to forgive, forget, or even do. The fact that we try to make those impossible decisions and the fact that we try to go on and do what is right by our own standards and the ones we care about is what matters ultimately at the end of the day. Scrapper proves that if you’re scrappy enough and willing to put in the work, anything may be achievable.
Screening at the IFC Center in NYC beginning August 25th 2023.
Screening at The Nuart in L.A. beginning September 8th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Kino Lorber Scrapper webpage.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 5.