Phil Davis and Lenora Crichlow as Brian and Shania in Fast Girl
Published: 14 June, 2012
by DAN CARRIER
Directed by Regan Hall
Rating: 3 Out Of 5 Stars
The sports film plot is as worn out as the inside lane on a municipal running track, and it is a furrow that Fast Girls, the story of a 100-metre sprint relay team has leapt into and makes no attempt to get out of.
We know what happens in sports movies: a person with an innate talent has a zillion hurdles to overcome before emerging triumphant.
Along the way there will be some cute homilies about striving against the odds, about learning life is a team sport, about trying your best and working hard and reminding us all that when defeat is staring you in the face you can still snatch victory.
Shania Andrews (Lenora Crichlow) is a working-class girl from a run-down estate somewhere in London.
She is a natural sprinter who trains on a litter-strewn, pot-holed and weed-riddled track, helped out by a cornershop owner Brian (Phil Davis) and his dog Linford.
When she does 20 metres under 23 seconds she qualifies for the World Championships – and is then headhunted for the GB relay sprint team.
But there is trouble ahead.
On the relay team is posho Lisa Temple (Lily James), a spoilt brat whose dad is a gold medal winner and a big cheese in the British athletics set-up. For a reason not made clear – is it because she lost a race? – Lisa takes an instant dislike to poor Shania, and the film trundles along as the pair lock horns on the track and in the changing room, before having to work out if they can possibly take to the track together to win something for dear old Blighty.
Fast Girls has a big heart and it is in the right place.
The actors do all they are asked to do and, unlike so many sports flicks, they are convincing as athletes.
Yet I found it dissatisfying.
It is admittedly not aimed at the demographic I belong to, and I can imagine there will be a lot of female teenage viewers who will relate to it and find it inspiring, which is a thumbs-up – what more can you ask for in a film?
Yet at times it felt too close to a film-length version of Hollyoaks, with telegraphed confrontations and cliched locations for the action to pan out (an underground car park for the poor kid to show the rich kid how to train? Oh, pur-lease!).
More worryingly, it includes stereotypes which for some may turn a stomach, like the posh white girl who is a total cow (though in her defence it’s a case of the sins of the father).
Then, perhaps less excusably, there is the poor black girl living on a housing estate with no parents and a sister whose boyfriend is a gold chain-wearing gangster.
This is a picture of London life that seems to have been cooked up by middle-aged white suits in a smart studio committee room.