Lenora Crichlow plays Shania, a talented young runner who qualifies for team GB in a major world athletics championship, despite her council estate upbringing and her modest part time coach, Brian (Philip Davis). Also qualified is arch-rival rich girl Lisa (Lily James), for whom Shania represents her greatest threat in the race for gold. As Shania begins her official training, GB coach Tommy (writer Noel Clarke) asks her to join the relay team, alongside seasoned sprinter Trix (Lorraine Burroughs), hurdler Belle (Lashana Lynch), and, of course, Lisa. Despite the overt animosity between the two girls, the relay team eventually becomes the crux of the story as they need to learn the value of teamwork before they can achieve gold glory.
Though the underdog story of disadvantaged girl versus rich snob is a heavily exhausted one, Fast Girls is saved from itself by its dynamic British cast and its stylistic and vibrant approach to the London games. Lenora Crichlow stands out in particular, delivering a hugely impressive turn in what will no doubt be her breakthrough role. And Shania’s teammates, including reserves Sarah (Dominique Tipper) and Rachel (Hannah Frankson), have an equally energetic presence and often drive the film with their quick banter and cheeky jests. While the film is primarily and triumphantly female-led, the male characters provide a nice balance in their domineering roles - the strict pressuring father (Rupert Graves), the head coach and Shania’s lifeline, Brian - with Noel Clarke writing himself some of the film’s funniest lines. Perhaps the sore spot lies with Lily James’ character; restrained by the clichéd rivalry, her overblown insults towards Shania sit uneasily throughout her establishing scenes and pepper the film with some dreadfully hackneyed dialogue.
Although Fast Girls won’t win any awards for originality, what it lacks in story it gains in style, as the race sequences in particular are brilliantly shot (with an incredibly exhilarating climactic sequence) and its emotional highs and lows are nicely executed. It is a shame, though, that character backgrounds are neglected, as a deeper exploration into London’s socio-economic problems in the face of the Olympics would have added an additional angle of relevance to an otherwise formulaic story. Nevertheless, Fast Girls works for what it is, and actually, works very well.
While it may lack depth and walk the line a little too neatly, Fast Girls is first and foremost a simple, uplifting sports drama, held together by a fantastic up and coming cast. So rest assured; the run up to the Olympic Games finally has something good to offer.