Rocks

Movie review by
Danny Brogan, Common Sense Media
Rocks Movie Poster Image
Coming-of-age teen drama has diverse, positive female leads.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Perseverance, teamwork, and courage are key themes throughout. Protecting and caring for your family. Different cultures are represented and celebrated. The importance of friendship -- particularly among teens -- is consistent. Teens occasionally deceive and disobey adults, but this is usually due to good intentions. A teen confesses to credit card fraud and another steals from a friend.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rocks is courageous, determined, and cares deeply about her younger brother Emmanuel. Though she deceives, lies, and in one instance, steals, she does so out of necessity or because she feels it is the best thing to do. Her group of teen friends -- especially Sumaya -- are loyal to her and welcome her back into the group after a period of absence. They are shown to be fun and funny, but also willing to help each other when needed. There is strong diversity among the main group of female friends, both in terms of race, background, and body representation. Characters discuss their cultures and backgrounds. Some depiction of other cultures during certain scenes. The mental health of Rocks' mother is referenced and is said to be the cause of her leaving her family.

Violence

Two kids are left alone when their parent leaves them unexpectedly. A food fight breaks out during a class at school. Two characters start pushing each other aggressively -- one hits their head on a metal staircase causing some bleeding. Reference to a dead parent. Some arguing between friends. A passing shot shows some cards and balloons laid on the street, presumably signaling the location of a murder or accident. A struggle breaks out between two characters with insults thrown and one smashing up the other's workspace.

Sex

Teens flirt with each other. Characters quiz each other about whether they're in a relationship or not. Some emphasis on beauty products. Characters use makeup. Reference to losing ones virginity when using a tampon.

Language

"Shut up," "d--khead," "Oh my God," "piss," "bitch," "s--t," and variants of "f--k" are used on occasion. Friends throw jovial insults toward each other. An argument breaks out with one character calling another "an animal," which is interpreted as a racial slur.

Consumerism

Mobile phones are prominent throughout, as are social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram. Characters talk about becoming millionaires and billionaires. School children are told off for wearing jewelry and fashion items into school. Character charges money for putting makeup on others. Reference to a teen committing credit card fraud. A lot of emphasis is put on the importance of money, but this is more in terms of necessity rather than materialistically.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One scene in which a group of four teens drink spirits and cocktails, but with no adverse effects. Reference to medication for an unspecified mental illness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rocks is a superb coming-of-age British drama that deals with some tough issues, but is inspiring and has a group of strong teen girls at its center. Rocks (Bukky Bakray), a 15-year-old British-Nigerian girl, is forced to take care of her younger brother when their mother suddenly leaves them. Rocks is supported by a strong group of loyal and caring teen girls, who are all from different backgrounds, some of which are talked about or depicted on screen. Rocks herself displays great courage and perseverance. However, her situation does mean she deceives adults and, on one occasion, steals from a friend. There is occasional strong language, including "d--khead" and variants of "f--k." An altercation between Rocks and a hotel owner escalates to Rocks being called "an animal," which is interpreted as being a racist slur. There is also a physical altercation between two girls, which results in one hitting her head against a metal staircase causing some bleeding. Characters talk about money frequently, but ultimately this is down to a need to survive, rather than for materialistic reasons. That said, mobile phones are used regularly, particularly in the context of using photo sharing and messaging apps. The girls all use makeup with Rocks charging some to do theirs. There is some reference to mental health, and a passing mention to virginity when Rocks is using a tampon for the first time. Though the underlining story is at times heartbreaking, the film is inspiring and jubilant as it celebrates the importance of friendship.

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What's the story?

ROCKS tells the story of a 15-year-old British-Nigerian girl called Shola -- or Rocks (Bukky Bakray) to her friends. When her mother suddenly leaves, Rocks is forced to look after her younger brother, Emmanuel (D'angelou Osei Kissiedu). With the help of her friends, Rocks is determined that nothing will separate the two of them.

Is it any good?

So real is Sarah Gavron's beautiful British coming-of-age drama that you laugh every laugh and cry every tear that her film's titular character experiences. Set in urban London, Rocks is heartbreaking, inspiring, and real, pulling you into a world that many will have never known existed. The performances from its young, diverse, and predominantly female actors are sensational across the board. But Bakray's portrayal as the British-Nigerian Rocks, along with best friend Sumaya (Kosar Ali) -- herself from a Somalian background -- warrant special praise. Their friendship is complex, yet genuine. When the two friends argue, talking over each other, stuttering, using harsh words, it feels unscripted, giving the scenes an added rawness. The fact that both actors were plucked from school before being given their debut roles makes their performances even more extraordinary.

Of course Rocks and her brother's situation is at the heart of the movie, but there's also so much more going on. Mental health, poverty, foster care, and what it means to be a young teen and person of color, are all themes that are explored, albeit some in more depth than others. The movie is so layered it requires repeat viewing. Take Rocks' distrust for authority figures -- those that are charged with looking after her and Emmanuel -- and how it plays in complete contrast to her White friend, Agnes (Ruby Stokes). It's just one example of the movie's poignant social commentary that is played out through a moving story enriched by realistic and stunning performances.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the central character in Rocks. Would you describe Rocks as a positive female role model? How does she demonstrate courage, perseverance, and teamwork? Why are those important character strengths? What would you have done in her shoes?

  • The cast was made up of a diverse group of girls. How is their cultural backgrounds explored in the movie? Why does representation matter?

  • Discuss the language used in the movie. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?

  • Why do you think Rocks and Emmanuel's mother left them? What could have helped her avoid making this decision? How do you feel mental illness is generally portrayed in movies?

  • What role does social media play in the story? Discuss the scene where Roshé puts something about Rocks on Snapchat. How do you think Rocks felt when this happened?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strong female characters

Character Strengths

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