out of Five
Running time: 91
Enjoyable, emotionally involving and timely feel-good sports drama that pushes all the right buttons thanks to an engaging (albeit clichéd and predictable) script, energetic direction and a lively, likeable central performance from Lenora Crichlow.
What's it all about?
Directed by Regan Hall and co-written by Noel Clarke, Fast Girls stars Lenora Crichlow as Shania, a gifted runner from a rough London estate, who trains every morning with local shopkeeper Brian (Phil Davies). When Shania qualifies for the World Athletics Championships (essentially a branding-free stand-in for the Olympics), she's asked to join the British relay team, but quickly develops an intense rivalry with fellow runner Lisa (Lily James), whose wealthy father (Rupert Graves) is on the athletics board. Will they be able to put their differences aside in order to ensure the team's success?
Lenora Crichlow is excellent as Shania, delivering a lively, likeable performance that feels completely believable. Lily James is equally good and there's also strong support from Lorraine Burroughs and Lashana Lynch as gobby fellow relay team members Trix and Belle, as well as solid turns from the always reliable Davies, Tiana Benjamin (as Shania's less-than-supportive sister) and Merlin's Bradley James, playing the team physio and Shania's will-they-won't-they love interest.
The thing about clichés is that they work, so there's nothing wrong with them per se, providing they are marshalled effectively; consequently, there's never any doubt where any of this is going, but the script manages to push all the right buttons along the way and builds to a hugely enjoyable feel-good finale. Similarly, Hall does an excellent job on the actual running sequences and there's also a terrific stand-out scene where the girls get into trouble with some sleazy boys at a nightclub and end up putting their sprinting skills to good use.
The only real problem is that, even allowing for the clichés and the predictability, the script still feels a little rough around the edges and could have done with some fine-tuning. For example, there isn't quite enough in the screenplay to really sell the final stage of Shania and Lisa's relationship, while a supposedly important plot detail regarding a risky baton handover technique gets largely under-played, to the point where it feels like there might be a scene missing.
Fast Girls is an enjoyable, emotionally engaging and cunningly timely feel-good drama that marshals its clichés effectively and succeeds thanks to lively direction and a winning central performance from Lenora Crichlow. Worth seeing.