After a hugely successful debut at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, the long-awaited British coming of age drama Rocks is finally here and doesn’t disappoint. Directed by Sarah Gavron, the film follows a 16-year-old Nigerian-British girl whose world is flung into disarray as their mother abandons her and her younger brother. With powerfully realised performances paired with a heart-wrenching bittersweet story, Rocks proves to be incredibly captivating, making us cry and laugh as we see an authentic depiction of East London and youth.
Written by Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson, this character-driven drama showcases the joy of growing up as well as the hardships and powerlessness that some have to face while doing so. Rocks (Bukky Bakray) is a lively student who hangs out with her friends and has a following for her makeup page on Instagram. However, her typical joy-filled childhood is stunted as her mother, with a history of problems regarding her mental health and medication, leaves Rocks and her brother Emmanuel (D’Angelou Osei Kissiedu) with nothing more than a note and small pile of money. As the odds become increasingly stacked against the two children, Rocks is forced on a personal pilgrimage to keep her family together.
Bakray perfectly captures the emotional turmoil and strength of a young woman forced into immense responsibilities. The newcomer actress’s raw performance compliments the authentic dialogue and candid cinematography of the film. Similarly, young star Kissiedu’s portrayal of Emmanuel demands our attention and breaks hearts with his endearing personality and innocence. The resoundingly high-calibre acting from the young cast makes the film feel incredibly personal and real. As we follow Rocks and Emmanuel having fun, running from social workers and struggling for money, the realism of the drama successfully paints a vivid picture of modern-day abandonment and social services.
Rocks is not only a narrative triumph, but a celebration of young women and community. Accompanying the overarching tension and sadness of the plot are beautiful moments, showing friendship, the colourful London skyline and the diverse cultures existing in England. With its important story and strong style, the film is a must-watch. Just remember to bring a pack of tissues and prepare your heart.
Rocks is released in select cinemas on 18th September 2020.
Watch the trailer for Rocks here: