"It takes a village to raise a child." Scratch that. "Nah, I'm good on my own." ...or something to that effect appears on the screen of Charlotte Regan's feature directorial debut before the opening credits even start. A delightful chuckle spreads across the audience as we're given a cute glimpse as to what the next 84 minutes hold. Now, I'm always wary of films that run less than 90 minutes. In my mind, if you don't have at least 90 minutes of story then you don't have a story. But as with everything, there's always exceptions to the rule - 'The Emperor's New Groove' for example - a brilliant classic - but I digress.
In 'Scrapper', Georgie (newcomer Lola Campbell) is 12 years old and has recently lost her mother, leaving her to fend for herself - and she does a pretty good job. She vacuums and does the washing, buys necessities down at the shops, and has a deep sense of cleanliness far beyond any 12-year-old I've ever met. She pays the rent and for groceries by ineptly yet occasionally successfully stealing bikes with her best friend Ali (Alin Uzun, a fellow first-timer), and evades Social Services by getting the local corner shop employee to make voice recordings pretending to be her imaginary uncle, Winston Churchill. When a bleach-blonde man hops into her backyard one day, Georgie is shocked to discover Jason (Harris Dickinson, the guy in everything these days including 'Triangle of Sadness') is her estranged father who's come to take care of her. A first for both of them.
SWITCH: 'SCRAPPER' TRAILER
Let's get this out of the way - wonderful cast! Lola is superb. Harris is great in everything he does, and Alin is the perfect sidekick. The cast is not where the film wavers. Regan has gone into her first feature enthusiastically and with a lot of ideas... without ever stepping back to question whether or not these ideas fit this particular project or not. The film is so simple and heartfelt, it never needed bells and whistles, yet Regan has shoehorned a few flights of whimsy (talking spiders, anyone?) that just miss the mark and unfortunately whip the audience out of the film.
There's little dialogue and no grand emotional breakthroughs to swells of manipulative music. This is a film where the simplest of actions speak volumes.
These brief, few-and-far-between moments aside, 'Scrapper' is lovely. Minimalistic, it is what it is; two strangers trying to find a way to each other while overcoming fear, grief, pride, growing up too soon and never having grown up at all. There's little dialogue and no grand emotional breakthroughs to swells of manipulative music. This is a film where the simplest of actions speak volumes. The actors accomplish it all subtly, quietly and with gracious intention. Regan has also proven that she can direct children with inspired success - an unappreciated and oft-overlooked skill - I suppose it could have helped that she had blank canvases, but I'll give her more credit than that. It's definitely deserved.
Charlotte has created a beautiful and soulful story. She's exhibited her skills, however green yet earnest, and has entered the game as a director to watch.