Set in London, Rocks may just be one of the most authentic portrayals of young life in the city yet. It’s a fantastically nimble film that is beautifully shot by upcoming master cinematographer Hélène Louvart. Having shot Happy as Lazzaro and Invisible Life, as soon as the first frame hits, you know that a delicate and wonderfully composed drama lies ahead. Directed by Sarah Gavron, a Camden-bred filmmaker who premiered this lovely work at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019.
Rocks (Bukky Bakray) is a teenager, who among her group of friends is very popular. However, her world is turned upside down as her mother leaves. Emmanuel (D’Angelou Osei Kissiedu), her younger brother, is left with Rocks as they go on the run becoming renegades of sorts. They find help in old and new friends, some who are loyal and some who are not. Things become tougher as their money decreases along with the chance of their mother’s return. All seems lost when Rocks begins to push away even her closest of friends.
Set in the normally-tight confines of social realism, Rocks is able to break conventions while being extremely compelling. Gavron tells this story in a sensitive yet exuberant manner. There is so much life to the group of girls depicted, it perfectly encapsulates secondary school life in London. I have never seen such an authentic portrayal, and as a Londoner, you can relate to many aspects; the chaos, the atmosphere, and the humor.
At the core of what makes Rocks so good is the spirit captured. There is such vibrancy felt in every moment, it’s just pure joy. You are bound to find yourself cackling in laughter over the improv’d London-style slang and disses flung at every single character. Such as a moment where a girl yells at her teacher, “You’re like this because you’ve got your period, sir!” It’s rather ingenious, letting the language and technology of contemporary London school life define a large chunk of the film, and Gavron’s casting amplifies this. There is an immense soul to it all.
D’Angelou Osei Kissiedu might as well be a living laughing stock, from his very first scene as he asks to say the Lord’s Prayer to every little moment he shares on-screen, he cannot be stopped. Likewise, Bukky Bakray is an enormous talent, she brings so much heart to the film, after all, she is at the beating core of it. The group of secondary school girls that surround her are also firing on all-comedic cylinders when seen together.
Rocks is a moving tale that is elevated by its beautiful cinematography and cast chemistry. It’s a film about innocence and the liveliness of girlhood. Executed with style and a razor-sharp sense for wit, Rocks is not to be missed.