Director: Regan Hall
Cast: Lenora Crichlow, Lily James, Bradley James, Noel Clarke, Rupert Graves
Running Time: 91 mins
Release: June 15
Pitched by co-writer and star Noel Clarke as “Rocky, with girls in lycra”, Fast Girls arrives in cinemas as the build-up to the London Olympics heads into overdrive. The film, created by first time feature director Regan Hall and delivered with a hefty dose of product placement, has been billed by distributors as the feel-good hit of the summer. It isn’t.
Tracking the journey of Shania Andrews (Lenora Crichlow), a 200 metres runner from an underprivileged background who gets selected for a Great Britain team bound for the World Athletics Championships in London, the film tells a familar story. Shania’s mother is dead, her father absent, her sister unsympathetic and her aunt too preoccupied to offer support as she strives to realise her dreams. A lone wolf by nature, her arm is twisted into agreeing to join the women’s relay team. Her predicament worsens when well-to-do teammate Lisa Temple (Lily James) takes an instant dislike to her. Feeling isolated in an unfamiliar environment, Shania must resist the urge to take flight, manage her fractured relationship with Lisa, and learn to embrace the Team GB philosophy.
Fast Girls is littered with a number of random subplots. There’s Shania’s crush on a man who also appears to be the object of Lisa’s affection, her sister’s relationship with a controlling boyfriend, their coach’s murky past, and the psychological damage inflicted on Lisa by her demanding father. Each strand is clearly signposted but all remain stubbornly unexplored.
The championships scenes – bizarrely set in 2011 – are poorly executed to the extent that it’s often difficult to tell what is happening during the races. Add to that a feeble attempt at generating an atmosphere at the big events and distractingly off-kilter lighting, and you’re left with a movie that fails miserably at managing its core elements.
Unusual for a British film the lead character is a mixed race female, with five of the six lead roles occupied by black or mixed race actors. Yet race is of little concern thematically as the chief rivalry is depicted in terms of class divide – hardly the most pioneering of approaches.
Then again Fast Girls is all about retreading old ground via an against-the-odds tale we’ve all witnessed a thousand times before. Presumably the hope was that Shania’s running would ultimately trigger an endorphin release-type feeling in the audience, but that was clearly over ambitious. This is no Rocky, and sadly it doesn’t pack anywhere near the emotional punch it’s so obviously striving for.