No doubt once again hoping to cash-in on the immense good will generated by the London Olympics — having previously preceded the games with its theatrical release back in June — Regan Hall’s Fast Girls this week lands on DVD and Blu-ray. But does it still stand up now that the endorphins have worn off and the Olympians have finally crossed the finishing line?
Promising young runner Shania Andrews (Lenora Crichlow) has offset her tumultuous home-life with the help of kindly shop-worker Brian (Philip Davis), who has trained her in anticipation of the 2011 World Athletics Championships. Leaving her mentor behind in order to work with professional trainer Tommy (Noel Clarke) and physiotherapist Carl (Bradley James), Shania progresses from local to national level alongside privileged rival Lisa Temple (Lily James), where the two are also asked to join the British 4×200 metres relay team.
Focusing on the fictitious World Championships rather than the games themselves (the International Olympic Committee insisted that every mention of the latter was removed from the script), Hall does well to capture the energy and atmosphere of the sporting event while dodging the inevitable comparisons. After all, on a modest budget and against the ticking clock, it would have been near impossible to accurately predict and emulate the size and scope of the 2012 London Olympics.
The film’s athletics may be a much more sedate affair, but they are nevertheless both realistic and well-researched. The running scenes are tense and exhilarating, which is at once a result of and despite the vigorous training regime completed by the young actresses — so rigorous, in fact, that Chrichlow fractured both of her ankles in the early stages of filming. Surprisingly, many of the film’s best scenes don’t take place on the track at all, perhaps the most memorable instead occurring outside a nightclub as the young women effortlessly outrun a pack of leering drunks to safety.
With a solid background on television including acclaimed turns in the likes of Sugar Rush and Being Human, Crichlow transitions well to feature length, and it is largely thanks her textured performance that the film works so well. Taking a well-worn underdog story and infusing it with personality, she duly makes the role her own and works up a nice antagonism with James’ rival runner in the process. Merlin’s Bradley James does well too, though the understated romance his character shares with Shania is never quite as convincing.
That said, while Fast Girls is undoubtedly enjoyable, there is nothing about it that is particularly remarkable (not least its sparse complement of extras, which include a behind-the-scenes feature, interviews and footage from the film’s première). Not only does it fall somewhat short of being considered a classic of the sporting genre, it also struggles to touch the Olympics itself for drama, action and fortnight-long feel-good factor.