A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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?
- On DVD or streaming: February 1, 2021
- Cast: Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali, D'angelou Osei Kissiedu
- Director: Sarah Gavron
- Studio: Altitude Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: March 9, 2021
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