No matter how hard you look, you won’t find a single trace of the Olympic Games on screen for the running time of Fast Girls. Never mind the fact that it’s about a team of British female sprinters who need to overcome adversity and personal differences to prevail in the biggest athletics meeting of the sporting calendar. Never mind that the film is being released just a month or two before the London Olympics kicks off. Fast Girls has to strain its low budget back to ensure that the lawyers of the IOC don’t come sniffing in its direction.
That said, it does the film no harm at all, as it turns out, even if there’s a nice contrast between the budget the film was made for, and the cost of the event it’s clearly pointing towards.
Fast Girls, then, is a tight and tidy British movie, that’s at heart about a team of female sprinters, who are brought together by Noel Clarke’s coach, Tommy, to run for the usually-overlooked relay event. While each of the sprinters concerned has problems to face, the film focuses firmly on the street-savvy Shania, played by Lenora Crichlow, and the far more privileged Lisa, played by Lily James.
The contrast between the backgrounds of Shania and Lily is an obvious direction for the film to take, perhaps, and their relationship is as friction-filled as you’d expect. But it does work. In particular, Lenora Crichlow – of Being Human fame – has to do a lot of the heavy lifting here as Shania. She’s given the greater share of screen time, and she’s a character you can’t help but root for. Crichlow is excellent in her first big movie lead role.
The screenplay, penned by Clarke, in conjunction with Jay Basu and Roy Williams, is based on solid foundations, and wisely keeps things moving along at pace. After all, the genre of the sporting adversity movie is, ultimately, generally a journey to an ending that sees all concerned as big winners or valiant losers, and Fast Girls plays within those parameters. It adds enough interesting side characters – with welcome appearances from Phil Davis and Rupert Graves – to offset the familiarity of much of the tale we’re being told. Crucially, though, you do end up caring about the result of the big race come the film’s final act. Only the romantic subplot doesn’t quite gel.
For a cast that’s packed with generally young British talent, it’s worth shining a light on Regan Hall behind the camera, too. He makes his directorial debut here, and he shoots Fast Girls almost as an anti-Chariots Of Fire. Instead of slow motion shots and iconic music, he gets his camera down on the track, and successfully gets across the speed and intensity of a relay race. Mark him as a talent to keep an eye on, because this is an assured debut.
Fast Girls, ultimately, is a film that knows what beats it wants to hit, and goes about doing so comfortably well. It’s a bright, commercial popcorn feature, that’s got just enough to it to make it round the track. Inevitably, there’s a sense that you’ve seen quite a lot of this before – there’s no radical shaking up of the formula, here – but that doesn’t dilute the fact that Fast Girls serves as a perfectly entertaining night out at the flicks.
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