Cannily crafted to cash in on the upcoming London Olympics and tap a demographic (women) not well served by the vast majority of sports pics, feel-good Brit drama “Fast Girls” offers a pleasant if mechanically predictable look at femme track athletes going for gold. With its pro-teamwork, believe-in-yourself message, the pic skews strongly toward younger auds and may not have B.O. legs as sturdy as those of, say, “Bend It Like Beckham,” but it provides a solid podium for its toothsome cast of young up-and-comers. “Fast Girls” gets its feet in the starting blocks with a June 15 domestic release.Fleet-footed Shania Andrews (fetching Lenora Crichlow, mostly known for her TV work) has grown up in one of the roughest parts of London. However, despite an unstable home life after her mom’s death, the mentorship of kindly amateur coach Brian (Phil Davis) helps her to qualify for a chance to compete in the 200-meter race for Great Britain at the World Championships. Being on the team also means she can access training, equipment and facilities at the national sporting academy, where she meets her fellow runners: snooty Lisa Temple (Lily James, “Wrath of the Titans”), who reps Shania’s main rival; veteran and natural leader Trix (Lorraine Burroughs); inveterate flirt Belle (scene-stealer Lashana Lynch); and Sarah (Dominique Tipper), who barely has any lines. Key off-track characters include inspirational team manager Tommy (Noel Clarke, who co-wrote the script with Jay Basu and Roy Williams), physiotherapist Carl (Bradley James), who is described as “cute in a boy-band sort of way” and catches Shania’s eye; and Lisa’s pushy ex-athlete father, David (Rupert Graves). Impressed with Shania’s speed and potential, Tommy persuades her to join the relay team, but she clashes with Lisa and, after a disastrous exhibition race in Barcelona, Shania quits the team to focus on training with Brian for the individual 200. Although the narrative arc hits every familiar beat, the scribes clearly did enough research to build a credible portrait of the athletics environment. Likewise, the scenes concerning Shania, her sister Tara (Tiana Benjamin) and the impoverished but close-knit world of the projects feels right, in the same way the working-class, largely Afro-Caribbean milieu did in Clarke’s “Kidulthood” and “Adulthood.” Altogether, Regan Hall acquits himself well as helmer, and femme tweens in particular should find much to admire and inspire them here. Tech credits are pro, although Lewis Albrow’s competent editing and copious use of slo-mo can’t disguise the obvious use of stand-in athletes in long shots to make the races look more convincing. Costume design by Andy Blake and Miss Molly none-too-subtly drives home the girls’ ambitions by dressing them lots of gold-flecked duds off the track.
A Studiocanal release of a BFI, Studiocanal presentation in association with Ealing Metro Intl., Aegis Film Fund of a DJ Films production. (International sales: Ealing Metro Intl., London.) Produced by Damian Jones. Executive producers, Jenny Borgars, Paul Brett, Graeme Law, Danny Perkins. Co-producer, Ben Rimmer. Directed by Regan Hall. Screenplay, Noel Clarke, Jay Basu, Roy Williams.
Camera (color, widescreen, HD), John Lynch; editor, Lewis Albrow; music, Richard Canavan; music supervisor, Matt Biffa; production designer, David Bryan; supervising art director, Jonnie Elf; set decorator, Fran Cooper; costume designer, Andy Blake, Miss Molly; sound (Dolby Digital), Tim White; supervising sound editor, Richard Kondal; re-recording mixer, Alex Joseph, Steve Single, Kondal; visual effects supervisor, James Etherington; visual effects, the Senate VFX; assistant directors, Matt Carver, Simon J. Aguirre; casting, Toby Whale. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 22, 2012. Running time: 91 MIN.
Lenora Crichlow, Lily James, Noel Clarke, Rupert Graves, Bradley James, Phil Davis, Lorraine Burroughs, Lashana Lynch, Dominique Tipper, Emma Fielding, Tiana Benjamin.