A gaggle of teenage girls lark about on the rooftop of an estate in east London, singing, rapping, dancing and laughing. The Gherkin looms behind them, as it did over the drug dealers of Top Boy. Rocks, though, is knife-free and very much a female-led piece, in front of and behind the camera. The Bafta-winning director of the film, Sarah Gavron, could have called it Top Girls if Caryl Churchill hadn’t beaten her to it. Yet that would imply a sense of competition that this raw and vivid story just isn’t interested in. As a depiction of British girlhood it’s up there with Fish Tank and My Summer of Love, but in Rocks the coming of age has nothing to do with sex.
The themes here are the burdens of responsibility and the spectrum of female friendship, from silly to serious. “Real queens fix each other’s crowns,” reads a poster on a bedroom wall. That rooftop scene is one of several group sequences that fizz with unruly naturalism. “Hey, Sasha, what’s your body count?” one girl asks another across a crowded playground. Later there’s an epic cake-mix fight in a home-economics lesson.