Running like they mean it
The best-loved sports movies (The Mighty Ducks, Cool Runnings, Rocky) all follow a pretty rigid formula. Underdogs are introduced, things look promising, things go tits up, things go really tits up, and then all is salvaged and success shows up just in time for the credits to roll. Co-scripted by Noel Clarke (of Kidulthood fame) Fast Girls sticks to this pattern with the steely determination of a world-class athlete.
It tells the story of two young hopefuls from opposite sides of the tracks: Shania (a gutsy gal running ‘to somewhere better’) and Lisa (a middle-class, waifish blonde with Daddy issues and a swooshing ponytail). The girls wrestle with rivalry, and their individual obstacles, before ultimately overcoming all hurdles to triumph together in the sprint relay.
We’re told they’re competing in a ‘world athletics championship’. Yup. You’ve got it. The thinly veiled Olympics comparison won’t be lost on anyone. And with the film’s release timed to perfectly coincide with the peak of Olympic fever, it’s going to be riding high on its coattails. Like Bend it Like Beckham before it, the film hammers home its British-ness with pride too; there are union jacks aplenty.
Of course you can pick holes in this patriotic romp around the running track. Some of the relationships aren’t that believable – the romance between Shania and her physio comes out of no-where and it’s difficult to be wholly emotionally invested in it. The familiar changing room pep talk, so moving when delivered by Emilio Estevez, could have been a high point. But Noel Clarke’s coach isn’t given dialogue that develops his character fully, and so scenes like this fail to pack an emotional punch and feel like missed opportunities.
But these niggling gripes are balanced out by the sheer force of adrenaline rush pumping out of every corner of this sports rom-com. When the girls are hurling themselves around the track, spurred on by the booming beats of Labrinth and Example, the film is in its comfort zone. The soundtrack works it. And the running montages do a stellar job of building mounting tension to the point where the audience is really willing every foot forwards.
This isn’t really a film about running. It’s about hope, trust, friendship and having the guts and balls to give your dream a shot. And if the round of applause at the end of the viewing I went to was anything to go by, it’ll be a box office home run.
Fast Girls is released nationwide in the UK on the 15th June