Charlotte Regan’s debut film with Lola Campbell and Harris Dickinson in a family dramedy.

Quirky father-child pairings are becoming exceedingly common in television and film these days. Heck, Pedro Pascal has made his recent career capitalizing on this dynamic in both The Last of Us and The Mandalorian. There’s nothing more heartwarming than a precocious child softening the heart of a less-than-perfect father figure. Charlotte Regan‘s debut feature follows this formula when it comes to her film Scrapper, and although it at times feels a little predictable, the trope is no less effective and thanks to her talented cast, it’s insanely charming.

Georgie (Lola Campbell) is a resourceful and independent girl. At 12 years old, she spends her day stealing and boosting local bikes to make money with her friend Ali (Alin Uzun). Although she’s a kid, she lives alone, after the recent loss of her mother. Lying to social workers that she’s living with her uncle “Winston Churchill”, she goes through the motions daily, trying to make ends meet while also quietly dealing with her grief.

One day, a man jumps over her fence and turns up. The strange adult man, Jason (Harris Dickinson), reveals casually that he is Georgie’s father. Perhaps if placed in another genre, this could be where the movie starts to turn into a horror film, but Jason’s heart is in the right place, and although he seems to be worse at being an adult than Georgie, it’s apparent that he loves his daughter.

Harris Dickinson pointing at Lola Campbell in the film Scrapper
Image via Sundance

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The two butt heads as Georgie closes herself off to him, and Jason, having spent the last few years in Ibiza partying, must adjust and learn what it’s like to be a parent to a girl who is still struggling with the loss of her mom. It should be no real surprise how the story plays out, as Scrapper could easily be defined as a feel-good movie. But what makes it stand out is Dickinson and Campbell’s performances as father and daughter. The two bounce off each other effortlessly, with Georgie’s wit coming into direct contrast with Jason’s repeated stumbles. The moments when they finally click, when it’s clear how much alike they are and how clear the bonds that bind them are, are all the more magical. When Georgie’s defenses fall and she becomes a child again, it’s genuinely heart-warming.

Regan comes from the world of music videos, and you can feel the vibrancy of her style in every frame of Scrapper. She mixes playful humor with family drama and puts it all against the backdrop of the British working class. Because we spend so much time with Georgie alone, she wisely puts us into the mind of a child without being infantilizing. We enter into her imagination, we feel her sadness, and we understand her struggles. Regan’s script feels effortless, though with the chemistry between the two leads, it wouldn’t be surprising if a portion of their lines were improvised.

Performances and mood aside, Scrapper‘s story is far from innovative. It’s a quiet comedy-drama, clocking in at a speedy 84 minutes, but feels compact in its storytelling. Unlike fellow Sundance film Fairyland, which also follows the story of a father who is in over his head with his daughter, there are no grand themes, no real-world tragedies or crises. Its greatest strength lies in its simplicity, but that might also be where it falls flat for some.

Rating: B-

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