Sarah Gavron’s Rocks is a realist coming-of-age drama that follows a young girl of colour, “Rocks” (Bukky Bakray), as she struggles caring for her younger brother after their mother leaves without warning. Aggressively directed and acted, Rocks offers a poignant intersectional look at race, poverty, and gender in the context of the United Kingdom, where the racial tensions–let alone economic tensions–triggered by Brexit are flourishing.
Gavron’s films speak to the socio-economic anxieties of youths of colour in Britain, particularly regarding the lack of a stable home life and parental support, financial well-being, and an overly patronizing public education system. Gavron’s sensitivity with her main subject is demonstrated throughout, simultaneously distanced and objective, yet also sincere and sympathetic. We follow “Rocks” as she attempts to find her mother, care for her younger brother, and elude the authorities that are keen on separating them.
Much of the film is anchored by Bakray’s commanding performance as “Rocks”, but equal praise for Hélène Louvart’s intimate and intense cinematography, which frequently frames the character in fleetingly precarious handheld shots. Indeed, Louvart’s cinematography articulates the anxieties–both personal and larger, socioeconomic ones–to great thematic effect.
Rocks is a timely examination of the trials and tribulations facing youths of colour in Britain. Brilliantly performed, shot, and directed, Rocks executes its themes with sensitivity and seriousness seldom found in cinema.