Film Review: The Fits
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Oscar Wilde once compared memory to a diary we carry about with us. It is difficult to watch The Fits, Anna Rose Holmer’s wonderfully taut directorial debut, without carrying a part of it with you for days afterward. Its imagery is so captivating, it’s meaning so enigmatic, and its score so beautifully haunting, that it's one of those rare films that is simply impossible to shake. At just 72 minutes it floats across the screen, almost dream-like. The film follows Toni (Royalty Hightower), an 11-year-old girl from Cincinnati on the cusp of adolescence. She spends most of her time at a local community centre with her brother (De’Sean Minor), practicing boxing and tightening her muscles with a precocious level of physical discipline, surrounded by boys who are all much older than her. Yet across the hall from this masculine world of blood, sweat, and physical aggression, a girls dance troupe named ‘The Lionesses’ trains, and whose members embody a different kind of power and grace. Toni gazes through the window separating these two gender-specific worlds. What she is thinking as she does so is left largely up to the viewer to decide; the placid face of the remarkable Royalty Hightower gives nothing away. Toni tentatively attends try-outs that the Lionesses are holding, and despite her lack of timing she begins to train with them three times a week. The group is large and the dance is supposed to be synchronised, and she struggles at first to lock in with the rest of the girls. She seems equally out-of-step outside of practice, observing more than participating, hanging on the fringes of the group, preferring to change inside a toilet cubicle rather than in front of her peers. Yet we see her rehearsing the dance routine incessantly, discovering the powers and limits of her own body, growing more confident in her movements. She befriends a girl her age, Beezy (Alexis Neblett), who pierces Toni’s ears and paints her nails, ushering her deeper into the feminine world that she begins to increasingly feel part of.
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