THE FITS screened as a part of the NEXT category at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. For more information, head here.
The Fits is unlike any coming-of-age movie you’ve ever seen. It plays like a beautifully choreographed arthouse music video, with the story being told through bodies. Bodies are important here—they represent strength and control and femininity and belonging. But what happens when a group of young girls start to lose control of their bodies?
Toni (Royalty Hightower) is an 11-year-old girl who can probably do more sit-ups and pull-ups than all of us. She spends time at a rec centre with her brother, learning how to box. She’s incredibly strong, especially for her age, but lately all she sees is that she’s not part of the super cool dance troupe, The Lionesses. She watches them every day, admiring their choreography. They have a different sort of strength and move with a sensuality she never realized she wanted.
At the advice of her brother (“The only way you can lose the fight is if you don’t get in the ring.”) she joins the team. Toni fumbles through her first lessons in choreography, her body seeming to betray her. But she’s determined to fit in and belong. It’s around this time that the leader of the team, the perfect amazing Legs, has an episode. What it is, nobody really knows. She falls to the ground, unable to breath and twitching uncontrollably. She is having a fit.
The fear of these fits sweeps through the girls. Nobody knows what is causing it or where it came from. Toni tries to put it out of her head and focuses on practicing her choreography and makes friends with a couple of other new young members of the team. More girls start to get the fits. Toni is both intrigued and scared. She wants to belong but she doesn’t want this to happen to her. (Who would, right? It looks terrifying.)
What makes The Fits extraordinary is how director Anna Rose Holmer chose to visualize her story. Precise, fluid camera work weaves around the actors, capturing their every move as if they are dancers. The camera is often facing Toni, so everything the audience experience is through her expressions, her movements, her looks. The score is moody and atmospheric, heightening the hysteria of the fits. (Composers Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi previously worked similar magic on Enemy and Martha Marcy May Marlene.)
The Fits is intense and poetic and terrifying because often that’s what girlhood—what growing up—is.
Siân Melton covered Sundance for us live from Park City, Utah. Read about her other work, including her Toronto-based film series The MUFF Society, below.