In one of those weird examples of synchronicity, I’ve just finished writing a monologue about a fifteen-year-old girl whose mum takes off, leaving her home alone and frantically trying to avoid the prying eyes of social workers. And then we come across Rocks on Netflix, and decide to give it a go.

Ah. It’s about a teenage girl whose mum takes off, leaving her home alone, etc.

Bucky Bakray plays Shola, known to her friends as Rocks. When her mum, Funke (Layo-Christina Akinlude), takes off ‘to clear her head,’ Rocks knows the score. It’s not the first time it’s happened. Funke has mental health problems; it’s not that she doesn’t care. She leaves Rocks some money, after all.

But there’s Rocks’ little brother, Emmanuel (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu), to consider too. He’s still at primary school, and he takes a lot of looking after. It’s too much for Rocks, and she starts to lose her way, falling out with her best friend, Sumaya (Kosar Ali), and taking up with loose-cannon new girl, Roshé (Shaneigha-Monik Greyson). Things soon get out of hand, and Rocks’ world comes crashing down.

Rocks is a lovely, heartfelt movie. It’s tragic, yes, but it’s also warm and life-affirming. It’s great to see a film set in London’s sprawling council estates that recognises inner-city poverty without wallowing in it, and that depicts the city’s working-class residents as rounded human beings. It’s beautifully performed by this troupe of teenage actors, and is utterly believable. I’m especially moved by the realistic depiction of friendship here: the girls quarrel, they tell each other unwelcome truths; they cry, they laugh, they are frequently out of their depth – but, ultimately, they care, and that’s enough.

Directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Theresa Ikoko, Rocks is a wonderful coming-of-age story, and well worth your attention.

4.5 stars

Susan Singfield

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