Cannes Review by Sarah Rappaport
I love sports films. I’d probably like watching sports themselves more if they had tightly cut montages set to fun music and almost universally positive endings.
“Fast Girls” is a very good—if predictable—sports film, set with the upcoming London 2012 Olympics as its backdrop.
It follows Shania Andrews (British TV’s Lenora Crichlow in her first leading role) as she qualifies as an Olympic sprinter and joins the relay team when the coach (a very funny Noel Clarke, who also wrote the film) believes in her talent and takes a chance by putting her on the team.
Shania is from a council estate, has an unsupportive family, and lacks the funds and resources that the other runners have. The star runner, Lisa Temple (Lily James) takes an instant dislike to her, making her time on the team difficult from the start.
In other words, she’s an underdog, and one that’s very easy to root for. Lenora Crichlow is a joy to watch on screen, and gives Shania depth and believability. You want her to run fast, and win. Shania isn’t just an underdog though–she’s talented, she’s fast and she knows it, and has very human combative and cocky side to her personality.
Lisa Temple as the girl with all the advantages going for her is obviously not as bad as she seems as first. Rupert Graves puts in a strong performance as her ex-Olympian father pressuring her to live up to his legacy. She looks like an Olympic athlete, and I believed that she was a runner her entire life. All the girls in the film must have trained hard, because they don’t look like actors playing athletes – they look like Olympians.
Bradley James, best known as Arthur on BBC’s “Merlin” also gives a solid performance as Carl, the team’s physio and the love interest for Shania. He’s believable and warm in his role. It’s his first major film, but he’s comfortable on screen and anchors the film, acting as Shania’s compass to her new world of top athletics.
There is a pretty obvious comparison to another sports film with two female British leads. “Bend It Like Beckham” ten years ago had two girls from different backgrounds coming together over their love of sport and despite their affection for the same man. That film launched Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra to fame, and might do the same for the “Fast Girls” stars Crichlow and James.
There are no surprises in “Fast Girls.” Anyone who has seen a fair amount of films knows where it’s headed, but it’s an enjoyable ride led by a young, talented British cast.