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Movie Review: 'Rocks' Feels Extraordinarily Real

The movie world is talking about the Academy Awards this week, but last week nominations for the BAFTAs came out—that’s sort of the British Oscars—and the movie that received the most nominations is one that’s not terribly familiar to American audiences. It’s called Rocks, and fortunately it’s currently just sitting right there on Netflix for any of us to watch.

The story is simple enough—it’s about a teenage girl in London who goes by the nickname “Rocks,” and how she ends up having to take care of her young brother after their mother up and leaves one day, saying she needs to “clear her head.” Rocks assumes she’ll come back, or at least holds on to the hope that she will, but days stretch into more days, and it gets difficult for Rocks to maintain a safe place for her and her brother while also evading the local authorities who want to take them into the system.

The extraordinary thing about this movie—and it is extraordinary—is how real the kids feel. Bukky Bakray, who plays Rocks, and the young boy who plays her brother never once seem like they’re acting. They behave and speak exactly like kids their age do, their reactions and mannerisms appear entirely natural and genuine. And while those two are absolutely the standouts, the same things are true of all the young actors in the film—Rocks spends a lot of her time surrounded by her group of friends, and every one of them seems like a kid you might run into in any middle school. This is an incredibly difficult thing to do, to make young people actually come across as real young people, without overly directed gestures and expressions, without affected movie dialogue.

And what’s more is that the kids reflect the multicultural makeup of many young groups of friends these days—Rocks and her brother are of Nigerian descent, her best friend is Somali, another is from Bangladesh, a few others are Anglo, and so on. It’s one welcome piece of this film that shows contemporary kids as they really are, and that takes them seriously as people instead of trying to turn them into something they’re not.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.