fri 14/06/2024

Fast Girls | reviews, news & interviews

Fast Girls

Fast Girls

Olympic relay drama runs out of steam

Relay runners: Crichlow, Lynch, James and Tipper

Nicely timed to coincide with London 2012, Fast Girls is a kind of athletic Bend It Like Beckham, although I doubt it will have that film's impact, either at the box office or on the careers of its stars. While the leads, playing a group of young female sprinters, are likeable and engaging, the film is a rather predictable story of overcoming hardship and conflict through sporting endeavour.

Shania (the excellent Lenora Crichlow, from Sugar Rush and Being Human) lives in a rough part of London; her mum is dead, her dad long gone, and she sleeps on her auntie's sofa with her sister Tara (Tiana Benjamin). But where Tara's life with a dodgy boyfriend in tow is fast going nowhere, Shania is driven to excel as a runner, and she trains on a condemned cinder track with her amateur coach Brian (Phil Davis, doing a nice turn as a twinkly mentor).

The training scenes and races are given authenticity by some very clever editing

Shania, a 200m runner, makes the national squad in the run-up to the 'World Athletic Championships', for which read the Olympics. Relay coach Tommy (Noel Clarke, who also wrote the film with Jay Basu and Roy Williams) asks her to join his team as well, where she quickly falls out with Lily James's Lisa (Wrath of the Titans), whose dad (Rupert Graves) was once a star sprinter himself and is now part of the national selection committee. The other runners are mother hen Trix (Lorraine Burroughs), nearing the end of her career, man-eating flirt Belle (the scene-stealing Lashana Lynch) and Sarah (Dominique Tipper in an underwritten role).

Shania runs a disastrous race with the team while hungover and leaves the squad to return to Brian and focus on solo competition. By now her home life has become as disastrous as her relay career, and when Tommy persuades her to return she blows her chances again because she and Lisa just can't get along. Will things work out in the end? Of course they will. (Crichlow and Clarke pictured below right)

Director Regan Hall uses a lot of slo-mo in the race scenes and the actresses, who trained for several weeks before filming to earn their taut stomachs, look the part as athletes. Many sports films fall down on the action elements, but here the training scenes and races are given authenticity by some very clever editing and the use of professional athletes both as stand-ins for the leads and their competitors.

But much of the story is implausible and, in parts, annoyingly cliché-ridden. Shania comes from a run-down estate and Lisa from a leafy suburb, while the idea that anybody with an undiscovered Olympic-level talent would be training with an amateur coach on a run-down track in borrowed gear in the run-up to the Games is risible.

There are so many stories going on in Fast Girls (including a rather creepy attraction between Shania and the team physio) that its focus is unclear: is this a film about race, class, wealth, parental control, failed ambition, sports politics, female friendship or athletics? They're all in there. It's a shame, as there are many dramatic and inspirational stories to be told about sporting achievement, particularly in an Olympic setting. And while there's some very amusing sassy dialogue between the athletes in training scenes and on a girls' night out, warm and committed performances from all concerned and a fantastic soundtrack, Fast Girls doesn't get the gold.

Watch the trailer for Fast Girls

There are so many stories going on that its focus is unclear


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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