I really need to express my opinion about the most authentic, infectious, effervescence, adolescent coming-of-age British movie in years. “Rocks”, released in the UK on 10 April 2020, directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Theresa Ikoko alongside Claire Wilson, which received acclaim from critics, and was nominated for seven awards at the 74th British Academy Film Awards, including “Outstanding British Film”, that will take place on 10 and 11 April 2021 at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
The film stars Bukky Bakray as Olushola, nicknamed “Rocks”, a Black British teenage girl in Hackney, London who is a cheerful and intelligent secondary school girl, surrounded by friends from different cultural backgrounds and who dreams of being makeup artistry. Mysteriously, Rocks’ troubled-depressed single mother leaves her and her younger brother Emmanuel (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu) overnight, abandoning the two helpless, with miserable pounds which barely they can buy groceries and pay the electricity bill. From this moment on, Rocks is forced to take over the role of mother, educator and provider for Brother Emmanuel, in the hope that his mother will reappear as she had done on another occasion in the past.
Without knowing how to deal with this problem, Rocks hides his situation from her best friends and from her family members who are in Nigeria, while trying to continue to live a normal life, going to school, hanging out with her friends and planning her future. However, as the days go by, she realises that she will not be able to escape from her problem, especially when the British authority officers want to take care of her and her brother.
Rocks is afraid of losing her charming brother, the only person she has left to call ‘my family’. From then on, she and her brother run away from home to escape from the child protective services and keep him under her cares and protection. Rocks relies on the help of loyal friend Sumaya (Kosar Ali) and others.
Sarah Gavron and the writers Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson developed a wonderful film about the resilience of a young, black girl, who lives in a London council flat, in a run-down area, next to her single mother who has depression and other emotional problem. Despite her difficult pre-historical life, Rocks is a cheerful girl, a good daughter and sister, a dedicated student, a companion friend and a girl full of dreams. She takes over the responsibility of taking care of her brother and the house from the moment she realises that her mother went away in an act of desolation.
The plot explores the universe of teenagers set amid immigrant communities in London. Rocks and her friends live under a varied of cultural codes and identities. All their mixtures make them to show empathy and connection. The girls are full of life, energy and courage to face – sometimes innocently – adversities they go through because their parents are immigrants, they have different cultural backgrounds and occupy unfavourable social positions.
The construction of Rocks’ dramatic arc and her tireless struggle to keep what was left of her family beside her shows us the power of an immigrant black girl. Rocks makes mistakes, such as stealing money from a classmate, staying in a poor hotel, or escaping from the child protective services, but she does those things because she is alone trying to save and protect her little brother. She finds some support with her friends, especially Sumaya (Kosar Ali), but Rocks avoids accepting it. The film could take on a dramatic side, as the theme itself calls for, but the brilliance and beauty conveyed by Bukky Bakray’s acting and her lovely eclectic group of friends, especially in closest ally Sumaya (Kosar Ali) make the film fresh, effervescent and uplift girls power.
Another thing, I really need to point out is the unconventional script that seems like a documentary rather than a fictional drama film created by the up-and-coming Nigerian-British playwright/screenwriter Theresa Ikoko, and TV writer Claire Wilson, of course, aligned with sensitive Sarah Gavron’s direction (“Brick Lane” and “Suffragette”), makes the movie “Rocks” a gem among European films of recent times.
The ethos aims to discuss the immigration, identities and multicultural Londoner adolescents and their families which are part of contemporary London, but that they haven’t been inserted fully in traditional British society, due to the lack of interest from the State and the economic elite. Rocks and his family are a reflection of the marginalisation that foreigners from underdeveloped countries, many due to colonisation and exploitation in the past, from European countries such as England, who have to leave their culture, history and past in search of a new life, in a wealthy country.
Like Rocks, there are thousands of adolescents girls scattered across the UK and other parts of the world, that came from poor countries and have foreign ancestry, and with a lot of determination to burst the bubble of discrimination, social inequality, race and gender that they have been inserted into, and overcome adversity to build a better and fairer world, where it is possible to dream. Although the end of Rocks’ dramatic arc has no end, and this, I believe, has been used precisely to show that the problem has not been resolved, but Rocks is still rolling the dice.
Photo Credit – Film 4