Fast Girls review

My expectations for Fast Girls was that it would try to be a modern day version of Chariots of Fire, but with girls. What it actually turned out to be is Bend It Like Beckham, but with athletics.

Fast Girls is the wholly original, not-at-all-recycled story of a poor girl with a tough family life and a posh girl with a seemingly perfect life who become fierce rivals as they chase success on the running track. The story follows Shania Andrews (Lenora Crichlow) and Lisa Temple (Lily James) as the aforementioned rivals from opposite sides of the track (there is an obvious athletics track joke in there somewhere but seeing as the film left that one well alone, so will I), as they go about their preparation within the Team GB camp for the World Athletics Championships in London.

Having read the synopsis for this film prior to seeing it, I felt somewhat confident that I could predict pretty much the entire plot, and while I was proved correct to a certain degree, the one thing that came out of the blue was just how little actually happens. The plot centres around the rivalry between Andrews and Temple, but it was a rivalry that never convinced and one that is seemingly fixed in the end with a five-minute chat. Temple’s motives for taking an instant dislike to Andrews appear to be entirely because she lost to her in a race, which seems like a pretty weak reason. The motivations of the two leads are made clear in a clunky fashion - Andrews is running in an attempt to rise above her station while Temple is running in an attempt to prove herself worthy of her successful athlete Dad.  Neither of these back stories are explored in sufficient depth to really make the viewer care enough and I found myself wondering why exactly so many plot threads had been set up (Andrews deceased mother and wayward sister, Temple’s divorced parents and desire to win her father’s love) but never really explored thoroughly enough.  A lot of these points were also shoehorned in through obvious and lazy expositional dialogue.

Ignoring the two leads for the time being, the supporting cast are all remarkably one-dimensional and given almost nothing to do by the basic script.  The characters of the other two girls who make up the women’s relay team can be boiled down to “The One Who Talks About Sex A Bit” and “The One With Cool Hair”.  Andrews’s coach says a few inspiring things and then returns to his corner shop while the parents of Lisa Temple are so obviously “Good Parent” and “Bad Parent” it barely warrants talking about anymore.  The film keeps hinting at potential back stories for pretty much every supporting character in the film, the coach who lost funding after a long battle, the Team GB coach with a dodgy CV, but there is never any attempt to delve into these issues, the characters remain entirely one dimensional and you are left wondering why exactly did they mention these things in the first place?   

All of the twists and turns in the plot are so obviously signposted that there is almost no drama to speak of.  The tacked on romantic sub-plot feels spectacularly unnecessary as Andrews develops a crush on the physio, but wait! What is this?  Temple ALSO has a crush on the physio?  What on earth is going to happen next?      

Despite the flaws in plot and character development, this is a film with sport at its core and so those points can be overlooked if the race scenes get the blood pumping and promote some good, old-fashioned British spirit, but unfortunately this is another area where Fast Girls just doesn’t quite cut it.  The build up to races was oddly muted and lacked any sense of tension or drama while the cinematography during these races left me confused as to who was actually winning but, perhaps most disappointingly, I was more aware of the fact that I just didn’t care.  I knew that in the end, the main protagonists would emerge victorious, but at no point during the film had I been made to emotionally invest in the characters and care about the outcome.  The final relay race was just so lacking in any spectacle it has almost put me off the Olympics entirely.

With the summer games now just round the corner, the film just smacks of a missed opportunity, plenty of decent ideas and the cast do a decent enough job with what they are given, but the film lacks heart and, most crucially, has almost zero excitement when race day comes around.

Fast Girls at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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