Writers: Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson
Director: Sarah Gavron
Before it finally made its UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival last year, Rocks had already been lovingly received at both the Toronto and the San Sebastián Film Festivals. It seems strange that a film essentially about British society should be so highly regarded so far from its genesis. But Rocks strikes a trembling chord far beyond its local community. And whilst the location is near entirely London centric, it really doesn’t matter where a story like this is set when it has at its core universal truths of class disparity and society’s apathy towards its most vulnerable members.
A sixteen-year old girl, known by her friends as Rocks (Bukky Bakray) comes home from school one day to find that her mum is gone, leaving only a vague note and a bit of cash. Unable to trust the system, Rocks and her seven-year old brother essentially become fugitives, dodging adult intervention for fear that they will be split up and taken away from their home.
Whilst the overarching plot is stark and heart-breaking, it’s also strangely uplifting, highlighting the strength of a community even when they have little by way of material wealth. And, when it’s not giving you stress-induced heart palpitations on Rocks’ behalf, it’s surprisingly funny.
Director Sarah Gavron has brought together a cast of teenage girls all completely new to the acting profession. Their casting was based purely on their chemistry with each other, and it really shows. Much of the script is made up of ad-libbed conversations between these girls, the kind you had when you were sixteen with nothing to do and nowhere to be, and these are some of the best moments in the film.
In stories about those whom the system fails, there’s often a habit of showing a community too crushed to care for one another. Rocks corrects that misinformation, instead showing a community that doesn’t necessarily have the tools to help, but desperately wants to. It’s by no means a rose-tinted fantasy, and you can certainly see nastiness at the fringes, but it’s not central to Rocks’ story.
On occasion Rocks makes for near unbearable watching, witnessing what is undoubtedly a common family tragedy in the UK, but this is the story we need to hear right now, and this is the manner in which we need to hear it: full of urgency and energy.
Released on 18 September 2020