Rocks (2019 – Netflix – 93 mins)
This is the film and the eponymous role that won Bukky Bakray the 2021 EE Rising Star Award. Rarely, if ever, has an award been so deserved. Bakray is phenomenal as Rocks, a teen who should be thinking about her GCSEs but instead has to worry about keeping her and younger her brother (a scene-stealing D’angelou Osei Kissiedu) safe & well after their mother leaves them behind. It’s a heart wrenching story to follow – incredibly well directed by Sarah Gavron, written Theresa Ikoko & Claire Wilson and with some exceptional casting by Lucy Pardee. This is a love story to London, teen girls and friendship. Rocks is a total must-see.
Elle (2016 – Film4 – 130 mins)
Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is a powerhouse, a formidable businesswoman at the helm of a video games company. She gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her. What follows is a fantastically gripping psychological thriller, that needs to be seen to be believed. Wonderfully atmospheric and rather haunting.
Animals (2019 – Film4 – 109 mins)
I recently wrote a feature for MediaMagazine on Frances Ha about it’s depiction of female friendship, how rare it is to see it’s central platonic love stories treated with a depth usually reserved for romantic ones. The same statement is applicable to Animals, showing a friendship that burns brightly, chaotically and with underlying consequences. Laura (Holliday Grainger) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) are life partners, sharing everything with each other. But, when Laura gets engaged to Jim (Fra Fee), it’s clear the enabling dependency between both women will be placed under great strain. Funny, filthy and bitterly real.
Shazam! (2019 – Amazon Prime – 132 mins)
All of DCs output is tarnished with the same damning brush; while mostly warranted, this has to be (the only?) one of the exceptions. A newly fostered young boy in search of his mother instead finds unexpected powers – the ability to transform into a superhero (Zachary Levi) when he calls out the word ‘Shazam!’ Levi is charm personified as the Big-esque lead, fully believable as a child in a (super)man’s body. Sweet, funny and wonderfully heartfelt.
Philomena (2013 – BBC iPlayer – 98 mins)
Speaking of heartfelt, with a very different topic and tone, Judi Dench plays the eponymous Philomena. Having become pregnant as an unmarried teen, she was sent away into the charge of nuns who separated her from her child shortly after his birth. Decades having passed, with no idea where her son ended up, Steve Coogan is the world-wearly political journalist who reluctantly agrees to help with the search. A wonderful true story, gently and carefully told, lead by two extraordinary lead performances.