WIt’s a wonderful, heartbreaking, life-affirming gem of a movie. Proven at the London Film Festival in October 2019 (how long it seems now!), This vibrant, insightful and deeply empathetic drama about teenage girls forging their identities in a potentially hostile world is squeaky realism, but also fiercely optimistic. Boasting a terrific ensemble cast that features a slew of talented newcomers, this is exactly the movie we need right now, paving the way for a more positive future while keeping the perils of the present in the eye. .
Bukky Bakray is Shola, aka Rocks – a 15-year-old force of nature, from London with a knack for makeup, who comes home from school one day to find her depression-prone mother abandoned her, she and his younger brother. Emmanuel (played with irrepressible flair by D’angelou Osei Kissiedu). All Mom left was an apology note about needing to clear her head and a pocket of groceries – barely enough to see the kids for a week or run the electricity. .
Determined to avoid being taken care of, Rocks tries to fend for herself and Emmanuel, shuttling them between friends’ homes and cheap hotels while maintaining the outward appearance of a normal life. But as each day passes, the pressures on Rocks increase, leading him to exclude those who have always been his closest allies, including Sumaya, who is very intuitive to Kosar Ali. Meanwhile, newcomer Roshe (Shaneigha-Monik Greyson) appears to offer a glimpse into an alternate existence, giving Rocks yet another reason to falter as his old life crumbles.
Written by up-and-coming Nigerian-British playwright / screenwriter Theresa Ikoko with film and television screenwriter Claire Wilson, and directed by Sarah Gavron (who made the 2007s Brick path and 2015 Suffragette), Rocks is a truly collaborative production, born from workshops with young people in various schools and youth centers. It’s an anti-hierarchical approach that gave this team effort an impressive edge of authenticity. Everything in the lives of these teens rings true, from their battles for survival to the exuberance of a classroom food fight, or the scenes in which the girls do dance steps (an eclectic music playlist in says a lot about their characters) on a roof, or in a wagon.
Significantly photographed by HÃ©lÃ¨ne Louvart, who recently shot Eliza Hittman’s remarkable film Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Rocks exudes an air so natural that you sometimes forget you’re watching a drama rather than a documentary – a quality amplified by bursts of phone footage. But despite the loose atmosphere, this is a rigorously constructed work, designed to guide audiences through the changing fortunes of its protagonist, seeing the world through his eyes and those of his closest confidants. The result is a film that combines the earthy honesty of Ken Loach VSathy come home with the bittersweet beauty of Clio Barnard The selfish giant, and CÃ©line Sciamma’s punch girl-power Youth.
True to the pride of the film “Team RocksEthos, it seems appropriate to mention casting director Lucy Pardee (who worked with Lynne Ramsay and Andrea Arnold), associate director Anu Henriques, and Rachel Clark, who shot the second camera alongside Louvart; all of them clearly contributed enormously to the film’s magic spell. But in the end, it’s the actors who wear it, lighting up the screen even in moments of darkness, making us believe in their characters and care deeply about their stories.
“Real queens mend crowns,” reads a sticker on the wall of the Rocks house. It’s a message that rings loud and clear through this stimulating and ultimately uplifting film.