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Ciné Sunday: Rocks

Sarah Gavron

In both Brick Lane and her star-studded Suffragette, British filmmaker Sarah Gavron showed an unerring talent for working bracing feminist ideas into great storytelling. With Rocks, Gavron has excelled herself. Stripped down, urgent, and bristling with energy, her latest follows a teenage girl who sees her foundation yanked out from under her, and who must find help – and a new family – from her equally precarious friends.

“a beautiful, raw, empathetic portrait of a girl at a turning point”

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 grim territory, 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) offers help, Rocks doesn't know how to accept it, blinded by Sumaya's two-parent household and relative comfort.

Developed through extensive workshops with its dynamic young cast, Gavron uses agile editing, and welcome doses of humour, to stay close to her protagonist at every moment. She crafts a beautiful, raw, empathetic portrait of a girl at a turning point, and celebrates the essential value of friends.