The Fits, 2015.
Directed by Anna Rose Holmer.
Starring Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Da’Sean Minor, Lauren Gibson, Makyla Burnam, Inayah Rodgers, and Antonio A.B. Grant Jr.
11 year old Toni becomes enamored with a dance troupe called the Lionesses across the hall from the boxing gym she trains in with her older brother. After joining, she finds herself among trouble as the girls start to suffer from violent fits.
“Many sequences were about telling stories through movement and body motion” says Anna Rose Holmer during our recent chat about The Fits [read the interview here]. Having tracked its progress and ultimately its success for a number of months, I was very pleased to talk with the director and co-writer, Holmer about her debut feature and even more happy to finally catch up with it myself.
True to what was said, the camera is often static as the action unfolds on-screen, whether it be playing out a dance piece or watching Toni train, this allows you to absorb both disciplines in a similar sense. The Fits isn’t a dialogue heavy piece, favouring short interactions between characters and using other means to communicate to the audience. Most of the events are shown from Toni, nicknamed “Guns” due to her boxing training looking from the outside in. When the fits start occurring, Toni doesn’t have any answers and therefore neither do we.
The fluid aspect of the storytelling works well alongside the dance pieces as a scene will create this sense of unease, which is heightened by the score and we become as rigid as Toni is watching. The Fits has this youthful and lively sense to its characters and plays them, not as all knowing vehicles for exposition but merely as kids wrapped up in this mysterious and seemingly dangerous situation.
The performance from Royalty Hightower deserves praise as she portrays many emotions with looks and to a certain degree her breathing rather than words, complementing the feature as a whole. You never really know if she is reserved in order to collect information around her similar to what a boxer would do in the ring or is just naturally reserved. Threat and innocence combine here to make a captivating watch, never really knowing what’s next gives the movie a real edge and places you in the shoes of Toni as she, herself tries to make sense of what is happening.
A movie that won’t be to everyone’s taste, it’s deliberately paced and although I enjoyed the fact its conclusion wasn’t a neatly tied bow, others may not. You’ll probably have to seek out the movie at your local independent movie theatre in order to see it but as Holmer said in the interview, “this is a movie that needs champions and needs word of mouth to grow.”
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★