26 September 2023

Scrapper takes a whimsical and slightly magical look at tough lives

| Marcus Kelson
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man carrying a laughing child

Scrapper is a quirky and warm-hearted film about growing up and re-building relationships. Photo: Supplied.

You know it’s school holiday time when you look at what’s coming up at the movies and see nothing but cartoons or CGI-generated bubble gum for kids.

There’s even a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. I thought that franchise died with Vanilla Ice’s career more than 30 years ago, although I think he went on to make a reality show about painting boxes.

So, as a lover of film and a reviewer, I’m always looking for a diamond in the rough, and I think I’ve found it with Scrapper.

Meet 12-year-old Georgie (newcomer Lola Campbell), who has been recently orphaned after her mother, Vicky (Olivia Brady) died of cancer and her father disappeared either when or before she was born.

Georgie and her friend Ali (Alin Uzun) spend their days mostly stealing bikes and selling them to a local bike shop owner (well, in reality, it’s a shop in a garage).

The film is set in East London and the house or flat Georgie lives in is in a row of similar dwellings that are brightly painted.

The reason I mention this is that there is a real colour palette and a slight magical realism about this movie, in both the cinematography and the slightly whimsical and dreamy lead character, who is rarely out of her West Ham United jersey (I’m also a supporter and it’s been a long time between drinks).

The money she makes from stealing bikes pays the rent and she gets a local shop owner to record messages on her phone whenever relatives or others call.

This fictional character and uncle is named Winston Churchill. For a while, Georgie gets away with this ruse to avoid being put under state care until her father turns up.

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Jason (Harris Dickinson) clearly is not the parenting type and begins by telling Georgie that her mum told him to leave early on in the piece. What we learn about her mother throughout this film would suggest otherwise, and he’s more likely just a layabout who’s spent the last decade or more odd jobbing in Ibiza with his drinking mates and failing to pay child support.

They do not get on. Georgie accuses Jason of abandoning them 12 years ago, and with every excuse he makes, she howls down with derision and contempt. But he stays at the flat, sleeping on the couch and they reach a sort of father-daughter detente.

One night, Jason enters the room Georgie has locked – her mother’s bedroom – and on the bed are piled bike parts and bits of scrap metal. Some memorial or shrine, perhaps?

Jason sees all the things his daughter has written on the walls, maybe some from a previous happier life, but mostly those of a grieving child who is unable to put into words the utter devastation she is feeling.

Her parents had Georgie when they would have barely been 18 themselves, so they were really just kids. Seeing these writings on the wall, Jason has a bit of a light bulb moment and some of the barriers between the two begin to crumble.

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Growing up is the central theme of Scrapper, made by debutante writer/director Charlotte Regan, who was previously known mainly for making pop and rock video clips.

Georgie has an incredible mind and wit but is still very young and dealing with a tragedy children should never have to face.

Jason has to come to grips with the fact he has a child, very much on her way to becoming an adult, and he needs to step up to the plate for the first time in his life to be the father his daughter needs.

This comedy-drama treats both main characters with great respect, and as they begin to get to know each other, we see an emerging relationship that speaks of warmth, growth and love. The development of this relationship is where the bulk of the film plays out, underscoring its essential humanity.

Scrapper gets three and a half stars out of five. Scrapper is screening at the Palace Electric and Dendy.

Marcus Kelson is a Canberra writer and critic.

Original Article published by Marcus Kelson on Riotact.

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