The unlikeable, but relatable, protagonist rings strong in Vivian Kerr‘s Scrap, a feature-length adaptation of her own similarly-named 2018 short film that she fronted as lead and writer. For her filmic go-around, Kerr has assigned herself directorial duties as well, assuring that her character (Beth) is presented in a way that holds authenticity; whether we like her or not.
Embodying what it is to be a book not judged by its cover, but rather judged for the pages it’s missing, Beth, despite the façade of the working girl persona she exudes day in and out, is currently homeless. Living out of her car – something the fancy Hollywood Hills residents don’t take too kindly to when seeing her stationary vehicle in their streets – and showering at the local gym to change into her “work clothes” in order to keep up appearances, she’s passed off her daughter, Birdy (Julianna Layne), to her long-suffering brother (Anthony Rapp‘s Ben) as she seeks out job offers.
We gather that Ben and Beth have only really had each other as they grew up, and it’s his paternal instinct that essentially allows Beth to walk all over him, much to the chagrin of Ben’s supportive, but stern, wife, Stacy (Lana Parilla). Beth’s homelessness is not something Ben or Stacy are aware of, and her leaving Birdy with them – something that is alluded to have happened multiple times before – and being aloof regarding her whereabouts leads Stacy to assume Beth is under the influence of something, and as she is undergoing IVF treatments, the stress of such and the general resentment she harbours in Beth taking Birdy for granted ultimately results in Stacy laying down some hard truths.
Perhaps in a more studio-driven film, a character like Beth would be painted off as loveably dysfunctional, with all her flaws shaded in overt humour and someone like Stacy brushed with strokes of bitterness. Here, Kerr is aware that Beth is to blame for her own problems, and Stacy’s boundaries are perfectly acceptable – especially when she even continues to show up for Beth as to not hurt Ben or Birdy. The shame of her own situation is present for Beth, and Kerr does a stellar job of expressing this personally, as well as through the dynamic of her relationship with Ben; herself and Rapp creating a familiarity with one another that speaks to their sibling bond throughout.
Though Scrap is never necessarily a film that evokes belly laughs from its audience, and its dramatic inclinations teeter between frustrating and devastating, it’s a product nonetheless that finds a purpose in its message without coming off as aggressively preachy. It’s a film that values honesty, swallowing your own pride, and owning your truth, and though it occasionally overstays its welcome with a certain repetitive nature at times, its organic nature and performances continually shine through.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Scrap is screening as part of this year’s Phoenix Film Festival, running between March 23rd and April 2nd, 2023, in Phoenix, Arizona. It is currently available for sale in all territories. For more information and festival session times, head to the official Phoenix Film Festival Schedule page.