The Fits

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Fits Movie Poster Image
Thoughtful, beautifully made drama with no easy answers.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 72 minutes

Parents say

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Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Deals largely with "fitting in" and belonging somewhere but also learning to be yourself. Since the "fits" aren't really explained, there's room for discussion/interpretation around what actually happened.

Positive role models & representations

Toni seems strong, smart, and independent; she works hard for what she wants, even though she has her doubts about how she fits in. Two girls take dance uniforms from the gym office before they've been allowed to. No adults are shown/portrayed, except out-of-focus in the background


Scenes of boxers practicing in the gym. Punching, some bloody noses, bloody mouth. Vomiting. Scenes of girls having unexplained "fits," i.e. seizures or fainting spells. An 11-year-old pierces her own ears.


Vague, background discussion between teen girls about a boyfriend; hints at a possible pregnancy.


Uses of "bitch," "dang."

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Fits is a low-budget indie drama that focuses on an 11-year-old girl. Although it tackles themes related to fitting in and doesn't have a lot of clearly iffy material, it's presented in a fairly grown-up way that makes it more appropriate for teens and up. It has a moody, dreamy feel and unsettling, unexplained elements -- i.e. the "fits" of the title, which refer to unexplained seizures and/or fainting spells that are startling and upsetting. There are also scenes set in a boxing gym in which boys punch each other, leading to bloody mouths and noses and vomiting. Language includes a use of "bitch," but otherwise nothing is stronger than "dang." A background conversation about a boyfriend possibly suggests a teen pregnancy, though nothing is overtly mentioned.

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What's the story?

In THE FITS, eleven-year-old Toni (Royalty Hightower) spends her days helping her older brother, Jermaine (Da’Sean Minor), at the gym where he works training boxers. She also takes lessons from him and has already built up some muscle and a fearsome jab. But as Toni peeks through the window to the studio next door, she realizes she wants to sign up for the girls' dance group. At first she doesn't fit in; her tomboy looks don't match the appearance of the pretty, made-up older girls, who talk about their boyfriends in the locker room. Toni tries wearing earrings and nail polish but becomes alarmed when the girls in the troupe start suffering strange seizures. No one knows what's causing these fits, but before long they begin to have an unexpected effect.

Is it any good?

Coming out of Sundance, this fascinating low-budget drama features the kind of bold, skillful filmmaking that seems largely missing today; it offers a profound puzzle to ponder but no easy answers. Making her feature directing debut, Anna Rose Holmer uses industrialized locations (the gym, a crummy-looking apartment complex, an overpass, etc.), each meticulously framed, to set her mood. The weather is overcast, and it could be any city, at any time of year.

No adults are shown, except out-of-focus in the background, and Toni is often isolated in the frame. It's telling that the title, The Fits, uses a word that relates to both what the girls are going through and being unable to "fit" in. Only the unusual music indicates that something strange is going on; the fits themselves are simply "metaphors" and are up for interpretation. The overall effect is surprisingly complete; it's touching, emotional, thought-provoking, and visually satisfying, with an exemplary, star-making performance by newcomer Hightower.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what The Fits actually means. What do you think is causing the fits? What do they represent in the story?

  • How does the movie deal with boys' and girls' body image? Are they positively represented? Do boys and girls have different body image concerns?

  • Have you ever had trouble fitting in? How did you feel? How did others seem to accomplish it?

  • Is boxing portrayed as a positive outlet for boys? Are the bloody noses and mouths, etc., part of this? Is the dance troupe a positive outlet for girls?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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