Culture / Film

Loved ‘Aftersun’? It’s time to watch father-daughter movie ‘Scrapper’


With Charlotte Well's debut Aftersun starring Paul Mescal so fresh in our minds, it's only natural that people will find parallels between it and Charlotte Regan's forthcoming project, Scrapper. At the core of both movies, is a complicated father-daughter relationship. Where the dynamic in Aftersun is fraught with miscommunication, and later, a sudden departure, the latter unites two people who are capable of existing alone, but eventually decide they no longer want to.

Newcomer, Lola Campbell, is natural and charismatic as Georgie, a scrappy and resourceful 12-year-old wearing an oversized West Ham jersey, with more emotional intelligence than most adults. Her mother has died, leaving Georgie orphaned and alone, save for the company of her best friend Ali (Alin Uzun) who also lives on the north London council estate, and is constantly nattering, the way you do when you spend dusk till dawn with a person.

Thanks to a backlog of one-sentence voice recordings taped with the help of the local mini mart attendant, social services believe Georgie is being looked after by her uncle "Winston Churchill", using the school holidays to heal and eat spaghetti. In reality, Georgie is living illegally by herself in the candy-hued council house, stealing bikes to pay rent and keeping up her mother's specific domestic habits for some semblance of control: her long blonde hair is braided to stave of nits, like her mother would've done; she arranges the couch pillows to mirror her mum's preferences and scolds Ali for disturbing them.

But if that's sounds grim, it's anything but. Georgie is ticking off the stages of grief just fine (we haven't yet stepped behind the locked bedroom where she's hatching a plan to see her mum again). That is until the day her absent dad, 30-year-old man-child Jason, played by Harris Dickinson, jumps her backyard fence and enters the picture looking like a budget Eminem. We learn that he's been working in Ibiza, selling tickets to clubs and living with his "boys". As an audience, you can't help but share in Georgie's scepticism and distrust. Is he really who he says he is? She could do without him, one immediately thinks. When Ali is picked up by his mother to depart for a family holiday, there is little else for Georgie and Jason to do but bond. Boredom is a chronic condition of growing up poor, and Regan does well to capture this. The film is unusually quiet for this reason.

At one point, Georgie loses her phone and with it, all her footage of her mother, following a leg race with police. In a fit of rage, frustration or perhaps prolonged grief, Georgie punches her frenemy neighbour. For a special treat and to escape the wrath of her neighbour's mum, Jason takes Georgie to the countryside to search for unearthed goods with a pair of metal detectors. Here, Jason gives his daughter a bracelet with her name, a gesture to make up for missing Georgie's birthdays. It's just one in a string of many moments that bring the two closer.

The film is dressed in a fantastical, soft pastel palette courtesy of cinematography from Molly Manning Walker (director of How To Have Sex). There's animations dropped throughout, which serve as embellishment but are fun nonetheless. These work in tandem with colourful Wes Anderson-styled interviews of Georgie's teachers, acquaintances and fellow council estate dwellers speaking on their relationship with the tween. Where a movie like Rocks chooses to offer a more realistic portrait of social services, Scrapper paints the institution as comprising easily fooled adults. Not because the former portrayal isn't real or worthy, but because British working class cinema has a tendency to choose grit over joy. Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank comes to mind. Here, Charlotte Regan manages a delicate balance of both. Warm and genuinely funny, Scrapper will heal the hole in your heart dug out by Aftersun.

Scrapper debuts in Australian theatres from September 14.

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