"It seems like an idea spawned solely because of the Olympic Games, taking away any sense that this is a long-standing passion project..."
At a time when Britain is in celebration mode - with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic Games and pending triumph at the Euros (ahem) - director Regan Hall and writer Noel Clarke have exploited such an upbeat time, tapping into the optimistic sentiment of the nation, in their upcoming picture Fast Girls.
Lenora Crichlow plays Shania - a promising athlete set to break into team GB for the World Championships. Working alongside her trainer Brian (Philip Davis) Shania must leave behind a turbulent working-class home life, where she lives in a council estate in London. The unlikely star has pace on her side however as she successfully qualifies for the team ahead of the tournament, despite compatriot Lisa's (Lily James) best efforts.
The pair - the fastest two girls in Britain - must compete together on the relay team coached by Tommy (Clarke), but such an event is reliant on team spirit and in order to claim gold they must overcome their differences and attempt to work together, yet pride, ambition and social class stands in the way. Unfortunately for Shania, Lisa's father (Rupert Graves) just so happens to be involved in team selection, whilst physio Carl (Bradley James) becomes another antagonist standing in the way of the pair forming a relationship.
The issue with Fast Girls is that it seems like an idea spawned solely because of the Olympic Games, taking away any sense that this is a long-standing passion project for Hall and Clarke. As a result it feels all very pro-GB, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the Olympic committee funded the whole thing.
It is just so predictable - like Bend it Like Beckham all over again. I literally guessed the entire plot line before going to see it, even foretelling the romantic triangle between our lead girls and Carl, the physio. Either I'm getting good at this or film makers have run out of ideas. Or both. Let's go for both.
There are so many obstacles for the characters to overcome, sometimes perhaps three or four in one scene, yet the potential problems to surmount never feel as though they are really carrying any conviction and substance, and the outcome always comes with a palpable degree of inevitability. Despite being over-the-top in this regard, the characters’ journeys as athletes feel extremely understated. The success and recognition Shania receives is barely touched upon. At one point she sees herself on national television, only to merely sigh and flick the thing off. She has gone from the council estate to national news and we barely explore it or see how it has affected her.
Crichlow's performance as Shania stands out however, as the actress shines in just her second feature film. She has a feisty streak which works well and suits the disruptive nature of her character. However, despite being one of the more experienced members of the cast, Clarke is somewhat forgettable, whilst Tiana Benjamin is unimpressive in the role of Tara, Shania's sister.
Mostly as expected though, Fast Girls is a harmless, light-hearted picture that doesn't pull up any trees, but plays out much as you would anticipate it do so. Tapping into the hearts of the nation? Perhaps not; everyone I've spoken to is more concerned about transport, and the weather.