Fast Girls
dir Regan Hall
prd Damian Jones
scr Jay Basu, Noel Clarke, Roy Williams
with Lenora Crichlow, Lily James, Noel Clarke, Rupert Graves, Phil Davis, Bradley James, Lorraine Burroughs, Lashana Lynch, Dominique Tipper, Hannah Frankson, Tiana Benjamin, Emma Fielding
release UK 15.Jun.12
12/UK 1h31
Fast Girls
Going for gold: Crichlow, Lynch, James and Frankson

clarke graves james
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Fast Girls Lively dialog and realistically played characters help make this sporting drama engaging despite a formulaic screenplay. And even if it's rather corny, the film could be genuinely inspiring to young athletes in an Olympic year.

Gifted runner Shania (Crichlow) lives in a rough London estate, where she trains with a local shopkeeper (Davis). Despite her lack of support, she's one of the fastest athletes in Britain, and qualifies for the team in the run up to the World Championships. She's facing competition from her privileged rival Lisa (James), whose father (Graves) heads up Team GB. Shania is happy running solo and, despite encouragement from coach (Clarke), isn't sure about becoming a team player and joining Lisa, Trix and Belle (Burroughs and Lynch) for the relay event.

The adversarial relationship between Shania and Lisa has been ramped up beyond all reason by the screenwriters, who inject cliched cattiness into every encounter. And the writers don't stop there, throwing every hackneyed plot point they can think of at these characters: the hint of a forbidden romance between Shania and the team's cute physio (James), trouble back home on the estate, ageing issues for star runner Trix, political tensions within the sport.

But none of this even remotely scratches the surface, so it's up to the cast to make something of their characters. Thankfully they're up to the challenge, giving us intriguing people we can root for even when they do something stupid. And Hall directs the film with real energy, keeping the pace brisk while hurdling over the story's gaping potholes. It's also one of those films that actually benefits from a string of adrenaline-stirring musical montage sequences.

Yet while it's enjoyable, it's also painfully contrived to fit into a dramatic arc that's deeply predictable. We never have even the slightest doubt where this is heading, and yet the cast and crew manage to get our pulses racing during the climactic scenes at the championship competition. This final sequence is so rousing that we almost forget the clunky plotting that got us here. And hopefully young people will get the point that success in sport has absolutely nothing to do with where you're from or what medals you win.

cert 12 themes, language 14.May.12

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