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TIFF 2019 Review: Rocks

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A high school student tries to look after her little brother after their mother abandons them.

Shola otherwise known as Rocks has a group of high school classmates that she likes to hang out with and also has a knack for doing make-up.  Troubles arises when she has to support herself and her little brother when their mother disappears and leaves a note with a questionable promise of returning.  Making the situation even more desperate is the fact that social services are looking for the siblings which will probably result in them being sent off to separate foster homes.

Overlapping dialogue is something Robert Altman became famous for but was able to achieve with far more clarity than Sarah Gavron has with Rocks.  The handheld camera places the viewer in the middle of the action whether it be in the classroom or on a bus creating a great sense of intimacy.  Although Bukky Bakray is supposed to be the star of the show, the real scene-stealer is D’angelou Osei Kissiedu as the precocious little brother; it is obvious that he has been taught to say his lines but the delivery is so genuine that you can’t help but laugh and smile.

Full marks to Gavron for exploring the ethnic diversity of England and grounding the antics of teenager girls in realistic behaviours.  The power of friendship to guide one through the pitfalls of life is an overriding and important theme.  The trouble is that as much as the effort was put into telling the story authentically, the scenes feel more contrived and somewhat haphazard.   But perhaps that is the point as in reality there is a messiness to our lives.

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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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