The best school drama in years is tough and honest, but hopeful, funny and feel-good in equal measure.
Director Sarah Gavron’s intensive workshopping technique welcoming of input from her young cast resulted in something that couldn’t be more genuine. The best scenes aren’t those of gritty social drama (plenty of those as there are) but the passages where the camera is simply placed to observe girls being girls, chatting and messing around; this is where their real chemistry sparks off the screen.
Rocks’ (Bukky Bakray) happy life at school with her friends and occasionally challenging life at home with a young brother and a mum who can’t cope becomes impossible when her mum runs out on her children, leaving them to fend for themselves. Rocks is soon struggling to survive, sofa-surfing with the friends she hasn’t burnt her bridges with and trying desperately to avoid being taken into care.
Despite some difficult passages, Rocks is the kind of film that restores your faith in humanity and the unbreakable power of good friendship, and will leave you smiling and with tears rolling in equal measure.
The year seemed to start so well as Bong Joon-ho’s jet-black social satire defied all expectations and made Oscars history, and it has only become more relevant as the year has progressed and the rich/poor divide has widened during the pandemic.
Bong has been a quietly brilliant cult film favourite for years, now at long last the world has embraced his subversive, hugely entertaining genre-blending style. Bong’s masterpiece has serious points to make but he does it with a witty and wry script, and in thrilling fashion.
The story of a poor family grifting a rich family is driven by impeccable performances across the board (particularly from Song Kang-ho and Park So-dam) and further enlivened by symbolism-rich pristine visuals, steadily mounting tension and enough twists and turns to keep you constantly on your toes. The final violent flourish and open-ended conclusion will leave you reeling.
Recommended for you: Jason Lithgo’s 10 Best Films 2020
It has been a truly exceptional year for independent cinema in particular, with a host of fantastic releases greeting our screens over the course of 2020; but which films would you include in your personal top ten? Let us know in the comments and be sure to follow The Film Magazine on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with articles such as this one.