Rocks review: ‘Heartbreaking and heartwarming British coming-of-age drama’

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Rocks is a charming piece of contemporary British cinema about how friends can get you through your darkest times.

Olushola, nicknamed "Rocks" (Bukky Bakray), is a Black British teenager who lives with her single mother (Layo-Christina Akinlude) and precocious little brother Emmanuel (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu), whilst spending time with her group of school friends and becoming a fledgling make-up artist.

However, Rocks’ life is turned upside down when her struggling mother leaves Rocks and Emmanuel behind, forcing Rocks to care for herself and brother without anyone knowing of the situation.

As her situation grows increasingly dire, Rocks finds herself turning to her friends, including her oldest and closest friend, Sumaya (Kosar Ali).

Suffragette director Sarah Gavron directs the heartbreaking and heartwarming Rocks
(Image: Altitude Film Entertainment)

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Suffragette director Sarah Gavron has constructed an empathetic glimpse through Rocks’ world, with her surroundings at school, home, nearby streets, and the homes of her friends all feeling a vital part of the storytelling. London is a true character on-screen and not in the postcard tourist way many films offer.

Gavron owes so much, however, to the stunningly natural and moving turns of her young cast, especially Bakray as the film’s resilient and gutsy heroine and Ali as her sweet and level-headed friend.

We are with Rocks every step of the way as she explores some of the more rebellious aspects of her school years, even when faced with such adult responsibilities.

One memorable sequence sees her team up with the new rebellious girl in school and breaks into an apartment with her and some male friends.

London itself is a big character in Rocks
(Image: Altitude Film Entertainment)

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In fact, it is the friendship between all of the girls that give the film its heart, along with Rocks’ sweet but occasionally antagonistic relationship with her small brother, played to scene-stealing perfection by Kissiedu.

The sweet exploration of Rocks and Emmanuel's sibling bond throughout these harsh times and the younger's innocence and naivety provide some touching scenes and the chemistry between these two is palpable.

There are strong elements of British kitchen sink drama at play, which gives the film some rather heavy and heartbreaking moments as it progresses, but there is genuine laughter and sentimentality in the more comedic and loving scenes showing Rocks, her friends, and her brother.

Friendships between the schoolgirls are utterly charming
(Image: Altitude Film Entertainment)

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A story of a young girl forced to grow up too quickly, there is a refreshing sense of youthful abandon when Rocks is free to let go of her worries and it’s the effectiveness of these moments that make the film so irresistible.

Verdict

Rocks is a heartbreaking and heartwarming British coming-of-age drama that boasts an excellent ensemble of young performers, particularly lead Bukky Bakray.

Rocks is released in select cinemas on September 18, 2020, and is coming soon to Netflix.

What is your favourite coming-of-age film? Let us know in the comments below.

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