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FILM OF THE WEEK Rock-solid reality

MARIA DUARTE sees an impressively authentic take on teen friendship in east London

Rocks (12A)
Directed by Sarah Gavron

IT’S rare for a film to paint such a realistic and captivating portrait of teenage female friendship and growing up in London within such a pointed social critique.

And it’s also refreshing to see young women from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds mirroring the youth in east London where the drama is set.

The story follows 15-year-old Olushola Joy Omotoso (impressive newcomer Bukky Bakray), an aspiring make-up artist known as “Rocks” to her friends, whose world is upended when her troubled mother (Lauo-Christina Akinlude) suddenly disappears again, leaving her and her seven-year-old brother (a delightful D’angelou Osei Kissiedu) to fend for themselves.

Fearing she and her brother will be split up by the authorities, Rocks does her utmost to keep their situation a secret.

As her predicament worsens, she is forced to make dubious decisions as she pushes away her loyal crew, including best friend Sumaya (Kosar Ali), who she feels lives a perfect life and so cannot relate to her dire situation.

Based on a script by award-winning playwright Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson, the drama was a creative collaboration which developed out of extensive workshops involving the young female cast, all discovered via casting sessions in local schools.

They provide an authentic energy, voice and vibrancy which belies their inexperience.

Bakray imbues Rocks with an inordinate strength, combined with vulnerability and, despite all her suffering, there are flashes of sheer bliss as she hangs out with her friends.

Singing, rapping and dancing, she is just a normal teenager in such candid snapshot moments.

The film shows the insensitivity of social services, who treat Rocks as a nuisance and belligerent teen rather than as a child in pain, and there is a lack of help and support for her mother, struggling with depression and mental illness.

Even so, this film celebrates the resilience, joy and power of sisterhood and it ends on an uplifting and inspiring note.

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