Photograph: Sundance InstituteCharlotte Regan’s ‘Scrapper’ opens this year’s Sundance London
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4 out of 5 stars

This cartwheeling, dad-and-daughter story buzzes with rascally energy

Phil de Semlyen

Time Out says

Like Aftersun on a gallon of SunnyD, this warm and freewheeling comedy-drama about a girl connecting with the dad she’s never met proves that working-class stories don’t have to be all misery and angst. Sometimes, that kitchen sink can be filled with bubbles. 

Georgie (newcomer Lola Campbell, wonderful) is a scampish 12-year-old, living alone in an east London terrace house and scraping together money to feed herself by stealing bikes and passing them to unimpressed local fence Zeph (Ted Lasso’s Ambreen Razia). With her best mate Ali (Alin Uzun), she’s Epping Forest’s answer to the Artful Dodger and debut writer-director Charlotte Regan clearly loves the same things about her that Dickens loved about his young characters. Her yen of improvisation, cheeky self-possession and sense of fun keep this charming film in good vibes throughout.

The reason why Georgie is living alone is initially kept under wraps. There’s a deep and obvious sadness behind her off-the-grid existence, but Regan doesn’t want it to overwhelm this tale of kinship and resilience. The ‘how’ of it all is captured via a fourth-wall-breaking Greek chorus of teachers and neighbours who chide Georgie for her airy optimism and lack of focus. She tells them she’s living with her uncle ‘Winston Churchill’ (the fact that they all accept this at face value clues you into the film’s loosey-goosey wavelength) and she uses voice recordings to fend off social workers on the phone. Meanwhile, she and Ali kick cans, playfully gift household spiders rich back stories and generally make the best of the little they have.

Here’s proof that working-class stories don’t have to be all misery and angst

Playing 30-year-old dad Jason, back from a hustling life in Ibiza more in search of accommodation than responsibility, is Triangle of Sadness’s Harris Dickinson. He’s an actor who can generate both real edge and gawky charm, but it’s the latter that Scrapper leans hardest into.

There’s a fascinating, shifting dynamic at work as dad and daughter slowly get to know each other and Jason struggles to establish boundaries he hasn’t really earned. It’s not like there’s old memories to call on – the pair start out as total strangers, even if she’s wearing his old West Ham shirt – and it lends the bond that slowly grows between them the feeling of a blank canvas being filled. Like Scrapper itself, it’s painted in the warmest colours. 

In UK cinemas and US theaters Aug 25.

Cast and crew

  • Director:Charlotte Regan
  • Screenwriter:Charlotte Regan
  • Cast:
    • Harris Dickinson
    • Cary Crankson
    • Alin Uzun
    • Lola Campbell
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