Film review: The Fits is bold in its simplicity

the fits

Flying Lotus has brought many blessings upon the world. His collaborations with filmmakers for music videos stand out as the biggest in my eyes.

Kahlil Joseph’s short film for FlyLo’s ‘Until the Quiet Comes’ is over in 4 minutes. It has an immaculate rhythm. It builds atmosphere with steady stillness. A stillness that bursts into a catharsis of movement at the climax, escaping with the audience afterwards, lingering in the back of the brain.

The Fits follows this EXACT rhythm and brings with it an immense joy and wonder at the end. That same catharsis as you and the characters let go, sweeping us up in the beauty of movement mixing with the audio on screen.

This is what it’s all been leading to; This is why this film was made.

It genuinely feels like a huge relief, because the preceding 70 minutes ambles along, spinning its wheels, a long commute driving from an interesting beginning to a beautiful ending. The Fits is a short film stretched out to a feature.

Toni is an 11-year-old boxer in training, separated in surroundings as the only girl in a room of young men at her community centre. Toni grows more and more fascinated by the competitive dance teams in training, girls segregated from the boys in the room next door. As Toni shifts focus and joins the world of the young women, a mysterious wave of seizures begin striking randomly throughout the community centre.

The Fits is a naturalistic slice of life. It’s not a deep dive of a character study but a more simple snapshot of a real community. Things happen, albeit not much. Toni and the characters remain relatively passive and don’t develop or move forward until the film asserts that they did.

The world feels genuine, keeping with its naturalistic, almost documentary sensibilities. The performances and world overall are true, and the children’s passion and life are infectious. But it’s refusal to dive deeper into its themes leave me wanting more to dig into.

It’s difficult to critique art cinema for not following the guidelines of crafting conventional cinema. The film has a point, and comes from a singular vision which remains fresh throughout. There’s a lot of clever cinematic craft that is intentional, but it’s still too shallow to challenge. The camera refuses to frame men and women in the same shots throughout, with the exception of the medium, Toni, which is powerful but doesn’t evolve. The spotlight of the film drifts across gender, identity, growth, puberty and ritual but doesn’t risk the honesty of deeper exploration.

Images and motifs repeat but the film refuses to evolve, magnify, contrast or subvert. The filmmaker, Anna Rose Holmes raises the same questions to the audience again and again, providing nothing new to reframe or grow the characters. It just drifts towards its lovely ending that, though a joy to behold, feels like the sole focus of the creator’s passion when making this film.

The film is bold in its simplicity, but still too timid to dive deeper, but with direction this confident, with performances this earnest, and an ending so well done, I still kinda love it.

The Fits played at the “Essential Independents: American Cinema, Now” festival. Find out more about the festival here:

The Fits will play in a season at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image from the 18th of June to the 10th July.

Riley James


Review by Riley James.