Director: Regan Hall
Cast: Lenora Crichlow, Phil Davis, Lily James, Lorraine Burroughs, Rupert Graves, Lashana Lynch, Bradley James, Noel Clarke
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It doesn’t mention the Olympics once. It’s not even allowed to. But Regan Hall’s Fast Girls is as 2012-ed up as its possible to be, shrewdly timed to hit cinemas just at the start of the summer. In fact, the Olympic Committee’s legal restrictions might be the movie’s saving grace, giving it enough of an independent voice to avoid feeling like a cash-in.
The underdog of the moment is Shania (Crichlow – Being Human). She spends her days escaping her concrete council estate home by running in a field with shopkeeper Brian (the always-excellent Phil Davis). Her natural speed is enough to earn her a place on Team GB’s relay team – if she wants it.
Track veteran Trix (a motherly Burroughs), sparky boy-eater Belle (Lynch) and token-other-character Sarah (Dominique Tipper) are nice enough running buddies. The trouble is Shania isn’t used to working in a team, and posh daddy’s girl Lisa (Lily James, enjoying herself) doesn’t plan to make it any easier. Lisa’s daddy (Graves), you see, is in charge of team selection. Stuck-up, selfish and determined to make his daughter a winner, he’s exactly the kind of berk who would stop scripter Noel Clarke and his co-writers from mentioning the word “Olympics” in their film.
Can Shania and Lisa put their differences aside in time to win the championships? Will Noel Clarke’s eager coach inspire his girls to win? How long until Rupert Graves learns to listen to his daughter?
Fast Girls has more than a few training montages handy to sort out its problems, and a bag of clichés to fill up the rest of the runtime. But Crichlow’s downtrodden contender is believable throughout, while the realistic behind-the-stadium stuff balances out the more stereotypical family scenes (Lisa’s house might as well be permanently rigged up to Classic FM).
A sprightly supporting role from Merlin’s Bradley James as Shania’s love interest doesn’t hurt either, while Lashana Lynch’s Belle laps up all the good gags. The result is a pleasant jog through familiar country. It’s no Cool Runnings, but Regan’s perky direction and his keen-as-mustard cast give this formulaic old dog new legs. Would it be less engaging if it was branded with 2012 logos everywhere? Probably. But like Chalet Girl’s confident character-driven entertainment, Fast Girls is as feel-good as sports movies get. You won’t be surprised when it crosses the finish line, but you’ll be cheering all the same.
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