A young teenage girl finds herself struggling to take care of herself and her younger brother after being abandoned by their single mother with no choice but to live out on the streets.
This has not been a good year for many things, cinema being one of them, and since I wrote my last review the major cinema chain Cineworld has announced it would be closing its cinemas in the United Kingdom indefinitely – largely down to a lack of major films to show with the latest delay to the release of the new Bond movie the primary trigger (alongside ‘Black Widow’ and ‘Wonder Woman’ also seeing further delays). One bright spark amidst this situation has been an opportunity to watch more independent cinema and catch up on some older classics, and this has quietly been an excellent year for coming of age films which are finding an audience through streaming services and the small number of cinemas that do remain open. That’s a long winded intro to get round to saying that ‘Rocks’ is the latest coming of age film I’ve managed to see, and it’s really, really good.
Set in inner city London, ‘Rocks’ is a film about a black teenage girl called Olushola (Bukky Bakray), who goes by the nickname ‘Rocks’, who is forced to look after herself and her younger brother Emmanuel (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu) when their mother abandons them. This forces Rocks to grow up quick, balancing the challenges of growing up as a black teenage girl with her newfound responsibilities as a carer to her younger brother. Bakray is a real find in the leading role, displaying both strength and maturity to step up to the challenges she faces, yet allowing the vulnerability and cracks to show as it all becomes a little too much. Growing up is hard, but it’s even harder when you’re left to fend for yourself with no adult support, and Rocks plight is one that is shared by many in real life.
The film is directed by Sarah Gavron, previously best known for ‘Suffragette’, and my understanding is that she worked with the film’s writers (Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson) and her young cast to develop the story, building in elements of their real life experiences to the dialogue and the journey these characters go on. This collaborative approach really shines through in portraying a world that feels lived in, and alongside Rocks story, I enjoyed the performances of Kosar Ali as Sumaya, Rocks best friend who has a more stable upbringing, yet one not without its problems as well.
‘Rocks’ is a poignant coming of age film with breakout performances from Bukky Bakray and Kosar Ali, and I thought it was a moving portrayal of the real hardships of growing up in a busy city without anyone to support you.
Directed By: Sarah Gavron
Starring: Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali, D’angelou Osei Kissiedu, Shaneigha-Monik Greyso, Ruby Stokes, Tawheda Begum, Afi Okaidja, Anastasia Dymitrow, Sarah Niles and Layo-Christina Akinlude