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USA 2015
Directed by
Anna Rose Holmer
72 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Fits, The

Synopsis: While working out at a local gym 11-year-old Toni (Royalty Hightower) becomes interested in an all-girl hip-hop troupe, The Lionesses, training there and joins them. Then, inexplicably, some of the girls start to have fits.

Although I can find no confirmation for it, The Fits appears to be a re-working of Carol Morley’s 2014 film, The Falling, which was also about a mysterious series of seizures affecting a community of adolescent girls. Co-writer and director Anna Rose Holmer has, Spike Lee-like, transposed the setting from an English private school in the 1960’s to the black projects of modern day inner urban Cincinnati.  Although her approach is more realist than that of Morley who imbued her film with the disturbing atmosphere of a classical psychological “horror” movie the two films are also similar in that a highly effective combination of observant cinematography and an atmospheric score creates a close relationship with their subjects. In the case of The Fits this is almost exclusively Toni who is wonderfully played by first-timer, Royalty Hightower, no doubt under the close direction of Holmer who makes her the still centre of the adolescent world whirling around her.

When we first encounter Toni she is a quietly observant young girl on the cusp of her teenage years who mainly and largely silently, hangs out with her older brother and his mates and joins in with them in their boxing training. Once she discovers the community of girls dedicated to dance and develops some friends of her own age and sex however she starts to blossom, becoming more playful and engaged. Then, starting with the team leaders, mysterious “fits” begin to affect some of the girls.

As with The Falling, Holmer gives us no explanation of what the fits are about. There is brief speculation that the water at the community center is contaminated but this is discounted. Yet while they have no discernible symbolic or allegorical function within the narrative they do acquire the status of a desirable rite of passage for the girls with, in the film’s most beguiling scene, Toni experiencing them for herself.

This deftly crafted sense of inexplicable mystery is the strength of The Fits which eschews any readily consumable meaning and instead creates a pervading sense of strangeness.  Here, the cinematography by Paul Yee makes excellent use of the empty echoing spaces and cold functionalism that characterize community sports centres whilst a brilliantly evocative score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans contributes so much more to the mood of disorientation than words could ever do.

Whether it owes something to Morley’s film or not, The Fits has its own identity and doubly impresses as a fine achievement by a novice feature film maker.




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