Film Review: Fast Girls
Regan Hall’s Fast Girls, the Bend It Like Beckham for runners just in time for the 2012 London Olympics, is a harmless feel-good movie following two ambitious athletes with very different backgrounds: Shania Andrews (Being Human’s Lenora Crichlow) and Lisa Temple (Wrath of the Titans’ Lily James).
Shania is a smart, streetwise girl – and before you can say “Noel Clarke” (who co-wrote and also appears in the film as the girls’ coach Tommy) we are presented with yet another independent British film to ‘relayte to the yoof’ as loud rap music plays over scenes in the rough council estate areas, innit. She explains she’s ‘skint’ and she lives with her aunt, whilst her sister Tara (Tiana Benjamin) gets involved with a seemingly nasty boyfriend, Daze (Richie Campbell). Whilst it is very real that these settings and situations exist in real life, it’s hardly inspiring viewing when nearly every British independent film and The Bill milks the exact same concept. However Crichlow does this role justice and makes us care for Shania even though we’ve seen her character a thousand times before in British drama.
The real problem with her side of the story is that there is not particularly much depth into her background, with Tara, Daze and his group only serving as characters to portray how ‘tuff’ the area is (for their characters have no real depth or purpose in the story). The lack of depth about her background and her character doesn’t help to heighten the stakes enough for Shania to make the race scenes as suspenseful as they could be.
Just as subtly as Shania, Lisa is juxtaposed as a middle-class spoilt brat (initially) who lives in a beautiful house where the music of Claude Debussy rings through the rooms. Her problems lie with her overly ambitious father David (Rupert Graves), who weighs a lot of pressure on his daughter’s shoulders, making her rather outwardly cold – particularly towards Shania, a potential threat to her future wins. James is fairly one-dimensional in this role, and as an audience we have little feeling for this character until the last scenes. One issue with the conflict of Lisa however is that David’s motives for placing so much ambition in her is left fairly unexplained – at one point he hands his daughter a gold medal, signifying that he previously was a runner also. But there is very little depth to this and we have no idea of his emotions related to his own experiences with running, and so he comes off as a running equivalent of a psycho ‘soccer mom’.
Another awkward plot point was the unnecessary romance with physiotherapist Carl (portrayed rather flatly by Merlin’s Bradley James), which felt like an obligatory addition rather than the formation of a genuine relationship.
But Vera Drake’s Philip Davis provides a heart-warming performance as grocer-turned-coach Brian, who offers support and a helping hand when Shania needs it.
Even though the story is predictable, easily forgettable and hardly a groundbreaking innovation, it offers a genuinely uplifting slice of British spirit in time for the Olympic season. There are some fun moments with the team – including an amusing scene in a nightclub where the girls make their escape from some nasty looking lads – and there is a definite chemistry between them in the races that creates a genuine-feeling friendship. It will leave you smiling in the end.