Sundance Review: Kitchen-Sink Whimsy In Charlotte Regan’s ‘Scrapper’

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The cost of living crisis has hit the UK hard, but you wouldn’t guess it from the trio of films shown in the Official Selection at Sundance. Rye Lanein Premieres, is a wacky love story set in South London; Girl, in World Dramatic, is a tender parent-child drama set in Glasgow; and scraper, also in World Dramatic, is a curious mix of the two. It deals with issues of social care, single parenting, truancy and grief, but director Charlotte Regan handles these matters with a candy-colored levity that can often be charming, in a whimsical Wes Anderson way, but sometimes downright baffling. (there’s a reason you don’t see talking spiders in a Ken Loach movie).

It begins with a title card reading “It takes a village to raise a child,” but the statement is immediately crossed out and replaced with the words “I can raise myself, thanks.” This is our handwritten introduction to 12-year-old Georgie (Lola Campbell), who lives alone on a Home Counties estate following the untimely death of her mother. As for social services, Georgie lives with her uncle, whose name is “Winston Churchill”. When someone calls, Georgia has a deal with the man at the corner store, who records conversation clips on her phone to tell her how well she is doing in school. Oh, and to pay the rent, Georgie is a bike thief who teams up with her best friend Ali.

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Georgie is perfectly happy to be alone, and can actually look after herself quite well, lounging around the flat watching the shopping channel with Ali and rarely taking off her baggy West Ham football shirt. However, this idyll comes to an end: out of nowhere, a young stranger with a blond Eminem crop jumps over the fence with an overnight bag and a bunch of flowers. This would be Jason (Harris Dickinson), the 30-year-old dad she’s never met and whose shirt she apparently wears. The meeting doesn’t go well, and when Jason shows up for a takeaway, Georgie and Ali conspire to shut him out. But Jason is as sketchy as his daughter and breaks in through an open window, and as soon as he gets back to the flat, Georgie knows it’s game over. When Jason is around, the power dynamic suddenly shifts and the two begin a passive-aggressive war of attrition.

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Despite the wacky visual styles and eccentric neighborhood details — like the bitchy girls in pink who complain that Georgie “don’t even know how to apply foundation,” or the three polite black guys riding matching yellow bikes — scraper is essentially a two-hander, as the fat-free plot is essentially the two getting to know each other and finding out if they might even Like it each other. Fatherhood is a welcome change for Dickinson, especially after his complacent role as himbo in Triangle of sadness, and there are unexpected shades of exec producer Michael Fassbender (who presumably aged out of the role during development) in his performance. Campbell, meanwhile, is something of a find, in a spiky role that lends a refreshingly unsentimental edge to this after-After sun story.

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It’s also good to see a sink drama that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the flip side of that is that scraper seems a bit flippant at times, as our courageous heroine, smart as she is, is still a fragile child, all alone in the world. Still, it’s early days in Regan’s career, and it’ll be interesting to see what other types of stories and genres she has in her offbeat sights.

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