Film Review – ‘The Fits’ (2015)


Training as a member of a dance team, 11 year old Toni (Royalty Hightower) starts to witness strange fainting spells amongst her teammates. It is intriguing that each instance of fainting is unique and at odds with the previous. ‘The Fits‘, an apt title, is told solely from the perspective of Toni, who increasingly appears withdrawn from the environment of the film – the gymnasium and motorway bridge used for sprint exercise.

The film pays a huge attention to detail. We know that Toni struggles with conformity. In the first section of the film she applies a temporary tattoo to her arm in front of her friends in the team. In the next series of shots she is seen scratching at the tattoo in an effort to remove it. In extreme close ups we see this distorted on her arm with the scratching, and the flakes landing on the floor. Similar instances of dress and non-conformity are continually repeated throughout.

At only 72 minutes in duration, we are placed in these character’s lives, and subjected to the harsh anxieties and lack of belonging they feel. It is a visual triumph. A lot of the film takes us to an empty swimming pool to reflect Toni’s state of mind. We cut from a mid shot of Toni stood on the base of the pool, to a different scene in the gymnasium, and then back to the pool. Only, the final shot in that sequence is long shot showing the scale of the pool and how small Toni appears in comparison to it.

The audio takes an unusual place in ‘The Fits‘. Often the dialogue isn’t integral to the narrative. The camera stays with Toni and follows everything from her perspective whilst the dialogue feels like it is pushed to background noise, again showing Toni’s isolation. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is at the heart of the film. The Danny Bensi score takes percussive similar to the diegetic noise and feeds them into a subtle soundscape. We hear the sound of clapping and the strike of the skipping rope against the floor, repeated back to us.

Every episode of fainting is brilliantly realised on screen. The blend of audio and visual creativity is met with an interesting editing pace. The use of slow and fast motion is also great. We get a sense that each fit is different from the last occurrence. Although this is later confirmed in dialogue, the audience have an impression of this anyway. Each faint being angled and shot to emote something disparate.

This a unique feature that goes to unexpected places. An absolute must see.

[rating=5] | Zach Roddis

Drama | USA, 2015 | 12 | 20th March 2017 (UK DVD) | Lionsgate Home Entertainment | Dir.Anna Rose Holmer | Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Antonio A.B. Grant Jr., Lauren Gibson, Makyla Burnam | Buy:[DVD]