Shola (Bukky Bakray), or Rocks, as she's known, lives in a London council flat with her younger brother Emmanuel (D'angelou Osei Kissiedu) and their single mother. Mum is busy and stressed, leaving Rocks to spend all her free time with school friends. One day, she comes home to find her life radically altered: she is suddenly on her own with a child to take care of. Gavron could easily have steered Rocks into miserabilism, but delivers instead a surprising portrait of resilience. Rocks is mercurial, impulsive, and deeply sensitive - not unusual for her age, she sometimes makes desperately poor decisions, for what look to her like good reasons. When her closest friend Sumaya (Kosar Ali) tries to help, Rocks doesn't know how to accept it, blinded by Sumaya's two-parent household and relative comfort.Written by
Toronto International Film Festival
This film directed by Sarah Gavron realistically captures a completely different London to which you usually see. A youthful London, not seen through the lens of gang violence, or an other-worldly bright posh feel, but one simply about sisterhood.
Girlhood is a good film to compare it to, or Divines, but this feels wholly new. The gritty feel to London is captured viscerally and it's nice seeing different characters which are not usually represented on screen.
The director feels removed in the best way, but the vision always felt tightly held. The performances feel like real people with their improv-type dialogue.
You can sense the collaboration and the naturalism bleeds through easily, due to the workshops the actors had partaken in beforehand, making for the hang out moment's and atmosphere feel effortlessly lived in.
The performances were great due to an impressive ensemble and there was an authenticity not just from the main youthful cast, but all the outsiders 'Rocks' encounters in her story.
Bukky Bakray's central performance as 'Rocks' is simply extremely powerful. She does a great job of showing her emotional frailties' as well as transitioning into a sense of maturity by placing it onto her little brother played by D'angelou Osei Kissiedu, who does a terrific job, portraying innocence and flair as well as being comic relief straight from the beginning.
Rocks' hardened experience and the unfair burden placed on her leads to a harrowing innocence to experience by her mother disappearing, which is not explicitly justified in the beginning as to why, perhaps to show it from Rock's oblivious, innocent perspective.
Also, an underrated aspect is this film handles the contemporary age of phones and social media everywhere well and incorporate it into the visual storytelling.
Many directors feel they have to make period pieces as they have stated they don't know how to get past the smartphone barrier, and Rocks has arguably overcome this successfully.
However, this can cause abrupt edits and loses the fluidity and pacing of some scenes.
It can also lead to a contrast when deciding if it is a exciting scene as opposed to the more somber, contemplative, realistic feel the film is aiming to capture and balance, but I applaud the effort.
The tone is also all over the place, conceivably representing her life and predicament, however there may be too much tether given.
The cinematography by Hélène Louvart, who also shot Never Rarely Sometimes Always recently, places us into Rocks perspective with ease and is extremely detailed whilst creating an intimate drama in which Rocks is almost in every frame.
The film is written by Nigerian-British playwright/screenwriter Theresa Ikoko along with film and TV writer Claire Wilson in which they combine tragedy and humour with a thread of looseness which is inevitably down to the collaboration and preparation of this film.
The ending for some feels incomplete for some, but without spoiling anything, there was definitely a realisation and conclusion to this intense story - a minor key ending.
Overall Gavron, and her predominantly female crew, have made a film with its heart in the right place and it will surely be one of the best films this year. Vital cinema.
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