By Kathryn Whitney Boole
“The Fits” is a refreshingly honest movie — a poetic short story about a tween girl going through the emotional roller coaster of adolescence. It’s not polished or elaborate, yet it’s a beautiful film, an ode to the struggles, twists of fate, disappointments and exhilarations of growing up.
The movie is very carefully designed to show us the world of the main character, “Toni,” an 11-year-old girl whose older brother acts is her supporter and companion. Toni is full of energy and spirit, so her brother takes her daily to the local recreation center with him to train her as a boxer. The movie begins her face close to the camera as she pushes herself to do sit-ups.
I identified with Toni more than most people will do — when I was her age, my goal, to the point of obsession, was to beat not only all the girls, but also all the boys, at track and field events. So, I also did my sit-ups every morning. Toni soon becomes entranced with a drill team that practices in an adjoining gym at the recreation center (I also became attracted to dance later, as a musical form of athleticism and a great outlet for pent up energy). Even if you don’t find as much specific similarity to Toni’s life in yours, you will recognize your emotional and physical struggles as you grew into a teenager, because this is such an intimate film.
The movie does not burden us with lots of dialogue and exposition. Most of the story is told in movement, dance and facial expressions, and it is all told directly from Toni’s point of view. You will experience her fears and her courage. You will see what she sees.
The Fits is Anna Rose Holmer’s directorial debut. Her background is in cinematography and that background shows in the amazing shot choices in the movie. Once Holmer developed the idea for the story, which as she mentioned in an interview is about “buried voices”, she applied for a grant from Biennale College Cinema in Italy. She was one of only three out of many applicants who received a grant. Even with that funding, the movie was made on a budget very low even for an Indie film. The principle shoot was only 20 days.
None of the cast had ever acted before, yet they all give wonderful performances. Eleven-year-old Royalty Hightower who portrays Toni is a huge talent. The dance team members are from an actual dance team in Cincinnati. Composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurrianns, who had worked together on the critically acclaimed “Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene,” created an excellent and highly unusual score often featuring plaintive wind instruments.
This is a cinematic poem about losing the innocence of youth. It’s about the death of childhood. It leaves you with a feeling that you have just relived your early years. The striking end scene is left to interpretation through your own eyes. For me, it is about the dance of life, about Toni’s catharsis as she rises up from her childhood, and at the same time her mourning as she loses it forever.
Not rated. 72 minutes.
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at email@example.com. For previously published reviews, see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.