Film review: Rocks

This is an impressive film which shuns cliches, says Linda Marric


Brick Lane and Suffragette director Sarah Gavron presents a deeply moving social drama in her latest film Rocks. Written by Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson, the film is set in East London and follows the story of a Nigerian British teenage girl who is left fending for herself and her younger brother in the absence of an adult in the household.

At school, Shola “Rocks” (Bukky Bakray) is both a happy and hugely popular teenager surrounded by loyal friends. When her troubled mother disappears without trace, the young girl decides to keep her departure a secret from everyone, including her closest friends. 

Worried that Emmanuel (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu), her seven year old brother,  would get taken into care if word got out about their current situation, Rocks decides to leave her home and  hide out around London until things are back to normal. Soon her solid friendship group begins to fracture, culminating in a showdown with best friend Sumaya (Kosar Ali). Meanwhile a new arrival at school signals trouble for both Rocks and her close-knit group of misfits.

Despite its serious subject matter, Rocks feels like a joyous exploration of female teenage friendships. It’s a film that categorically refuses to succumb to a pessimistic worldview, opting instead for a genuinely heartening coming-of-age exploration of love, loss and everything in between.

Screen newcomers Bukky Bakray and Kosar Ali both contribute extremely effectively, with highly credible and capable performance. As Rocks, Bakray in particular – who incidentally is in almost every scene – navigates the plot with impressive maturity, and captures the full variety of the moods of adolescence.

With hints of Céline Sciammas award-winning French drama Girlhood (2014), Rocks is an impressive piece of work from Gavron and her writers. Packed with beautifully shot moments both of euphoria and heartbreaking sadness, it is is undoubtedly the director’s finest output yet. Shunning clichés and stereotypes, Gavron has given us a strong, courageous and celebratory portrayal of contemporary British girlhood in this absolutely stunning film.

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