Review: A 12-Year Old Girl Gets By With a Little Help from Friends, Her Estranged Dad in Scrapper

Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Charlotte Reagan, Scrapper, a slight but moving slice-of-life set in urban London, is anchored by the central performance of Lola Campbell as Georgie, a resourceful and fearless 12-year-old girl living in her small apartment alone after the death of her single mother. She gets by on her wits, with the help of a small community of adults who don't seem to have the bandwidth to care that this child is without adult supervision but are willing to do small favors to keep her safe and where they can see her, like the shop clerk who records standardized voice messages she can play back to the case worker who calls regularly to check in on her. She and her friend Ali (Alin Uzun) fill their time when they're not in school by stealing bikes to resell for cash or otherwise causing minor trouble around their neighborhood, all while Georgie is processing the grief of her mother's loss in her own childlike way.

It's just another solo afternoon for Georgie and Ali when a young man approaches her flat through the garden; Georgie is particularly confused when this man, who can't be yet 30 himself, says he's Jason, her father (Harris Dickinson). To say the two have a contentious relationship to start is an understatement, as Georgie is resentful of Jason's presumption of authority and Jason is confounded by Georgie's resistance to the same. But he knows her secret, and threatens to tell the authorities about her unusual arrangement any time she steps out of line. As the two get to know each other better, their respective walls start to come down a bit; they even go out bike "shopping" together and bond over their subsequent run from the police.

Of course, both of them are children, one literally and one who never quite grew up, and their respective inability to process their grief, prioritize each other's needs or offer patience and grace through confusing, hard times means this father-daughter duo aren't immediately best friends. The film is just 84 minutes long, and Campbell is in nearly every (if not every) scene, quite an emotional commitment from a pre-teen. But she more than delivers, with a toughness and no-nonsense attitude anyone with two wits about them would not want to meet on a deserted playground, and a professionalism that exceeds her young age.

It would be tempting to compare Scrapper to another recent father/daughter drama, Charlotte Wells' Aftersun, but the comparisons really should stop there. While Wells' film is a devastating portrait of a young woman looking back on her fraught relationship with her single father, Reagan has made something far more tactile and grounded in reality, a story that puts us right in the day-to-day of a child left to her own devices to get by in a world moving on whether she makes it or not. Scrapper offers a lighter touch throughout as well, making it more of a pleasure to watch Georgie get by than a worry about whether she will or not.

Scrapper is now playing in select theaters, including Music Box Theatre.

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Lisa Trifone