I am ashamed to admit that I had not even heard of Rocks, the movie which earned its break out star, Bukky Bakray an EE Rising Star Award at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) until the award was announced.
The almost 19 years old Bakray beat off competition from Conrad Khan, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Sope Dirisu and Morfydd Clark to clinch the coveted prize which has been won by actors like John Boyega, Juno Temple and Letitia Wright amongst others.
Discovering that the movie is available on Netflix led me to drop everything and have-a-look-see. Rocks is a beautiful movie that hardly puts a foot wrong; well that is if you look past the ending which I feel was a bit rushed and abrupt.
The movie written by Theresa Ikoko and Claire Wilson and directed by Sarah Gavron is, at its core, the coming of age story of Rocks aka Shola Omotoso who, thanks to a series of unfortunate events, is suddenly forced to play mummy and sister to her seven years old brother, Emmanuel.
The movie unfolds as we follow her befuddlement and naïve attempt to navigate her altered circumstances. Funny, self-deprecating, fun loving and smart, Rocks, is soon out of her depths as she tries to juggle and balance a million things from her education to her brother, her friend’s concern and need to make money.
Her valiant but ultimately doomed exertions seem almost Quixotian but they speak to resilience and tenacity but ultimately of naiveté and how cold and impersonal living in the West can be.
As the lights go off, cable television is cut off and the heating dies, her brother says “Nothing works in this house” and in so doing verbalizes the sorry pass their lives have come to.
Rocks is, therefore, a cautionary tale for young Nigerians heading abroad. Yes, things work in the West but sometimes they work a tad bit too clinically well. it’s evocation of immigrant life should make it required viewing before “you travel.”
The attentions of a social worker lead Rocks to run away from home. Her first night at her friend’s place ends in tears and her second visit to another friend leads to more tears and the film’s climatic scene. But despite the tears, Rocks the movie is actually a paean to friendship and untainted innocence. It is a buddy film focusing on what adolescent friendship can be like before boys and maturity roil the waters.
It is also a comment on the ‘cancel culture” facilitated by Social Media seen especially from Rocks run-in with Roshe and this is where the moral black hole opened up. For a film riding on morality and grace under pressure, I suppose the writers or directors should have made Rocks apologise to Roshe.
Bukky Bakray is a revelation. Her acting is solid. She is grounded and her emoting is real where it is need. There is gravitas not usually evident in a first time actor. Her battle to keep her shit together is painful to see as she struggles to keep all the pieces in the air and watching her unravel breaks the heart especially as things go South beginning from the bed and breakfast and then culminating at Agnes’ house.
Rocks is a movie made by women for women. The men are peripheral figures and appear only to propel the plot to the next level. They are neither important nor significant to the story. The only important male character would be Mo, Roshe’s love interest.
But there is really nothing wrong in a movie made by women for women; especially one that delivers with a riveting and shocking story, solid acting and a deft directorial touch.
Rocks is that rare movie that announces a major new talent – think Angelina Jolie in Girl Interrupted or Brad Pit in Thelma and Louise but in this instance, Bukky Bakray is not in a supporting role.
Rocks is streaming on Netflix.