Taking place in the West End community of Cincinnati, Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits is easily one of the best films to play at New Directors/New Films since I have been following it for the past few years. Originally premiering last year at the Venice Film Festival, Holmer’s delightful debut made its North American premiere this year at Sundance and is now finally making its way to New York later this month.
Complaining about the child actor in a movie is one of the most frequent complaints from critics and the general moviegoing audience today. One of the most impressive aspects of The Fits is how Holmer marvelously captures some of the most impressive performances out of a primarily child-based cast that I have seen in quite some time. It is not just the outstanding central performance from Royalty Hightower that stands out when looking at The Fits; the entire cast of actors give genuinely compelling performances and work together in an incredibly natural fashion.
One of the many strengths to Holmer’s debut is her active approach to exploring the many facets of our lead protagonist, Toni’s environment. Early on in the film, I got a strong sense of Yorgos Lanthimos’ Alps, during a shot of Toni’s dancing from afar, which I kept on thinking about all throughout the film. Both films have this very formal approach in terms of capturing the general movement of each of the films’ central activity: dance. The maintained camerawork helps to create this constant feeling of longing that Toni (Royalty Hightower) faces all throughout the The Fits.
For a film that only runs a scant 71 minutes, The Fits is shockingly dense. Capturing both Toni’s internal and external conflicts along with the problem that is facing her environment is surely not an easy task to accomplish in such a short amount of time. Holmer sticks to her narrative from the very first scene and never takes a detour throughout the way. Every single scene in The Fits feels incredibly essential to the film itself, and it’s clear that Holmer’s tightly composed tale is at the helm of someone who clearly understands the elements to constructing a narrative onscreen.
While maybe a bit thin, Holmer’s approach to her story is told in a very austere matter that played especially well for me. Complete control over a film is something that rarely shows in a directorial debut, but Holmer’s clear sense of what goes into a film is one of the many things that helps to elevate The Fits to being one of the best debuts I have seen in the past decade that just has me longing to see what she does next.