In both Brick Lane>/i> (2007) and her star-studded Suffragette, Sarah Gavron showed an unerring talent for working bracing feminist ideas into classic movie narratives. With Rocks, Gavron has reinvented herself. Stripped down, urgent, and bristling with energy, her latest tells the story of a teenage girl who sees her foundation yanked out from under her, and must find help — and a new family — from her equally precarious friends.
Shola (Bukky Bakray), or Rocks, as she's known, lives in a London council flat with her younger brother Emmanuel 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.
Using agile editing, and welcome doses of humour, Gavron stays close to her protagonist at every moment. With not a shred of false sentiment, she crafts a beautiful, empathetic portrait of a girl at a turning point, and exalts the essential value of friends.