Dir. Regan Hall, UK, 2012, 91 mins.
Review by Delme Stephenson
As London prepares to host the 2012 Olympics, British sports drama Fast Girls leaps into cinemas this weekend to remind us to chase our dreams and to start getting excited about the approaching Summer Games. While Fast Girls isn’t the most original of propositions and often finds itself stumbling into clichés it’s hard not to avoid its earnest intentions.
Shania (Lenora Crichlow) is a talented runner who lives on a council estate with her wayward sister Tara (Tiana Benjamin). Although Shania doesn’t have much going on in her life, she has the determination to get up each morning and train at a derelict racetrack under the tutelage of local shop keeper Brian (Phil Davies). Shania’s hard-work pays off when she qualifies for the World Athletic Championships in the200 meterssprint. British relay coach Tommy (Noel Clarke) sees potential in Shania and offers her the chance to train with his squad which includes veteran sprinter Trix (Lorraine Burroughs) and privileged Lisa (Lily James), a very competitive young woman who takes an instant dislike to Shania and wants her off the team. The fierce rivalry between Shania and Lisa intensifies as they both share affections for the team physio, Carl (Bradley James), while Lisa’s influential father David (Rupert Graves) takes matters into his own hands once he sees Shania as a threat to his daughter’s success.
There are two central questions at the heart of Fast Girls: Can Shania overcome the numerous odds placed in front of her and compete in the World Championships? Can the young women overcome their differences and race as a team? The answers are not hard to find, especially with a story that has been seemingly scribbled on the back of a cereal box and thrown at its director’s feet. However the cast does an admirable job with the material given. Lenora Crichlow is likeable and sweet as the film’s heroine, moving seamlessly from cult TV shows such as Sugar Rush and Being Human into her first feature film, and is ably supported by actors such as Noel Clarke, Rupert Graves and Phil Davies – who all provide depth to characters that could have easily remained one-dimensional.
Although it’s clear Fast Girls doesn’t have a big budget, director Regan Hall does a good job in creating a sense of vibrancy to race scenes and events off the athletic field. It doesn’t hurt that the film is accompanied by a bass heavy soundtrack provided by a selection of contemporary chart-toppers.
Fast Girls takes a lot of its style and tone from Noel Clarke’s previous works – Kidulthood, Adulthood and 18.104.22.168. Clarke who also co-wrote the screenplay for this feature abandons his piercing social commentary and mutes any of the controversy of his previous work, allowing Fast Girls to reach a broader and younger audience, which is both interesting and yet unfortunate as this film already courts a 12A certificate from the BBFC.
Fast Girls can’t match the sheer power of Chariots of Fire or the irresistible charm of Bend it Like Beckham – two films I feel it must inevitably be compared to, as its director and screenwriters are obviously trying to channel the themes and motifs of both. Yet, flaws aside I must admit that Fast Girls works as an energetic, entertaining girl powered sports drama with its heart in the right place and a sense of its own identity. However, I do have a feeling that this is a film that could have used this opportune moment to say so much more.