What the unforgettable Bande de filles by Céline Sciamma was to Paris, Rocks by Sarah Gavron is to London: an empathetic look at the complex lives of the girls who are the present and the future of the city but who are still all too often ignored.
“Rocks” is the nickname of Shola, an adolescent who has to take care of her little brother after the disappearance of her British-Nigerian mother. The resourceful girl pretends nothing is wrong and has plenty of reason to keep social workers and schoolteachers at a distance. But looking the other way is rarely the solution to problematic situations. And cutting yourself off from the friends that you shared everything with is likewise unlikely to help anything.
The urban reality depicted here is not for the faint-hearted, but the film does not lose itself in wretchedness. Although she attends a very ethnically diverse school, Rocks has a fixed group of friends with an infectious and encouraging zest for life.
Cinematically, Rocks cannot match Bande de filles. The tactic of evoking the sense of a documentary through hypermobile camerawork is a bit tired. But the young actors bring the house down, thanks to having spent a year working together intensively, getting to know each other, and proving their talent. Two questions remain at the end: can society afford to continue underestimating these city girls and thus missing out on the opportunity to flourish? And when will Brussels get a film like this?
UK, dir.: Sarah Gavron, act.: Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali, D’angelou Osei Kissiedu