by Joanna Orland
The Fits is much more of an allegory than a plot-driven movie. Slow and somewhat abstract in nature with very little dialogue in the foreground, the film follows 11-year-old Toni (Hightower) as she begins to move away from boxing with the boys to dancing with the girls. A full-on metaphor for approaching womanhood, The Fits strays into horror territory without ever fully committing, acting as a mild psychological thriller on the female crossover into puberty.
Never overt or direct in its storytelling, The Fits leaves much open to interpretation – mine being that the film is in its entirety about leaving behind childhood for womanhood. Taking influence from true stories of mass hysteria, director Holmer uses this infliction often associated with females, and uses it as a centralized metaphor for becoming a woman. The mass hysteria being that one by one, members of Toni’s new all-female dance troupe are having episodes of fits. No one knows what is causing these fits, some blame the local community centre’s water – many of the girls are awaiting their own episode, often wanting it to happen. As all of the girls in the community centre begin to have fits, they note that it’s not happening to any of the boys.
As Toni witnesses her peers have fits one by one as she awaits her own turn, there are other metaphors playing out for her leaving behind her childhood for womanhood – she somewhat rejects one life over the other, and eventually tries to find balance between them. There are many beautiful moments such as Toni removing one of her earrings to compare her old tomboyish look to her new girly one, performing her dance routine while in her boxing clothes, and a handful of other homages to the change in her stage of life.
Lacking subtlety, this allegorical film tells the tale of female coming-of age in an abstract, genre-bending fashion. Too slow and metaphorical to reach a mainstream audience, The Fits is worth seeking out for some thought-provoking discussions on what it means to leave behind childhood for womanhood.