Rocks review: a flat-out must see British triumph

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From director Sarah Gavron comes the film Rocks – and it’s an astonishingly good piece of work, that deserves lots of support.

The coming of age drama is a familiar tale. Every generation has its film, capturing the feeling when youthful exuberance gives way to the inevitable realities of the next stage of life. But Rocks, from director Sarah Gavron, tackles that subject with a depth of feeling and raw energy rarely seen on screen.

The film stars Bukky Bakray as Olushola, nicknamed ‘Rocks’, a black British teenage girl living on an inner city London estate with her mum and young brother. She goes to school, she hangs out with her group of close friends, they talk about their future while living in the moment. When her mum suddenly abandons her and brother Emmanuel (D’Angelou Osei Kissiedu), Rocks faces the challenge of looking after the two of them without support.

At times heartbreaking, at others hilarious, Rocks is a film about the bonds of family, and the sense of solidarity that comes from female friendship. Boasting a cast of unknowns and largely improvised, there is a sense of real connection between the young actors, their conversations feel incredibly natural. The film could be described as being in the social realist tradition, it has elements of that in its unflinching depiction of life on an urban estate, but it also recalls the 2014 French film Girlhood from director Céline Sciamma, and the unity of young women. This is a resolutely female film, and 75 percent of the cast and crew were women. There is a real emotional kick to the shared journey between Rocks and Emmanuel as they show the heartfelt, unconditional love of siblings along the way.

The maturity that Rocks demonstrates, saying so much with so little, makes the scenes between them very moving. Her resilience and acceptance of the situation she faces is breath-taking. It’s an emotional watch, but it’s not miserable. It’s energising. The relationship between Rocks and her friends at the heart of the film highlights the importance of friendship in your formative years. Your mates and your phone are everything to you at that age, and the film celebrates that, rather than judging it. Those scenes between the group, just hanging out together, talking and laughing are delightful. The little moments captured are precious and inspiring. Because of this, and the determination of Rocks, the film fizzes with hope despite the serious story at its heart.

If the children are our future, I believe we’ll be okay.


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