Fast Color is set against a faintly dystopian backdrop and tells the story of a woman named Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) with supernatural abilities. She suffers from increasingly dangerous seizures or “tremors” that cause inexplicable earthquakes. When her powers are detected by the authorities, she flees back home seeking solace from her estranged mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint).
It’s not very often that a film comes along and touches me the way that this one did. While the story is fairly simple, it’s the three central characters as well as an empowering script that make Fast Color such a gem. I love that the film explores the relationship between three generations of women. Ruth, Bo, and Ruth’s daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney) come from a long line of women with similar abilities. Over the years they have learned to live in secret with little interaction with outsiders.
While credit certainly goes to each actress for her talent, I have to shout out the amazing direction by Julia Hart, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jordan Horowitz. Each character is remarkable in her own way with characteristics so distinctive from one another. I’m always impressed with quality character development and Hart/Horowitz know exactly what they’re doing.
Even though Ruth has had powers for most of her life, she never learned to properly control them. When her powers first manifested as a child, she was overcome with violent seizures that led her to self-medicate. Even as an adult, she still seems to be running from who she is by not fully accepting her abilities or making any use of them. She is described as “broken” and it’s written all over Mbatha-Raw’s face from the first moment she appears onscreen.
While Ruth believes in running, her mother Bo believes in hiding. Her own mother was incredibly strict; Bo was barred from dating and allowed no farther than the family’s front yard. She may be firmly planted in one place, but she has learned to shrink herself and conceal who she is from the rest of the world. It’s partly out of necessity, after all she knows the risk involved if her family’s powers were to be discovered and exploited by the wrong people. But it’s also partly out of fear, because deep down I believe she knows just what she is capable of doing.
The relationship between mother and daughter can be described as “rocky” at best. Their inability to see eye-to-eye played a part in why Ruth left the family home in the first place. She later returned briefly with her own daughter in tow, leaving the child behind for Bo to raise.
Lila has grown up to be inquisitive and fearless. She longs for a life beyond the confines of the family farmhouse and is not afraid to explore her abilities, although this is normally done in secret behind her grandmother’s back.
And the beautiful messages abound: from accepting one’s past, to embracing identity, and ultimately learning how to walk in purpose and power. I actually felt stronger and more self-assured after watching, which is yet another testament to the strong writing.
Fast Color feels a little like an origin story of sorts. It introduces these fantastic characters and gives a lot of explanation as to how they have come to be who they are. It feels like the beginning of something great. While we see Ruth, Bo, and Lila each perform small feats, it feels like they’re just beginning to scratch the surface. After all, it’s never fully detailed just what they can do with their abilities. I’ll keep it spoiler-free, but there is one act that happens late in the film that really surprised me. It seems to signify that there is absolutely more to come.
Quite a bit of time is dedicated to the set up, which does slow the pacing in some areas. I appreciated the technical side of the film as well. The “colors” which are referred to more than once look bold, vibrant, and larger-than-life when they finally appear onscreen.
I came across recent chatter online that confirms a TV adaptation is in the works. It’s great news because it means that the story will hopefully be put in front of more people. I think the film’s weak performance at the box office is mostly due to the fact that people just didn’t know about it. This can certainly be traced back to the poor marketing campaign, but if I’m being fair it may also be due to the fact that moviegoers really are experiencing “superhero” fatigue at the box office.
If that is one of your concerns, let me assure you this isn’t your typical superhero film. It’s much quieter, based in a world somewhat different than ours, but still very familiar, with people dealing with real issues like addiction and abandonment.
Overall, I was enthralled with the characters and the wonderful writing! I highly recommend to anyone out there who enjoys rich storytelling and is keen on female-centric films. Fast Color is currently available on DVD/Blu-ray. You can also rent it on Amazon Prime and YouTube for only a few bucks. Check it out as soon as you can!
The year is winding down and I’m still playing catch up seeing movies I missed. Have any suggestions for something I should see? I’d love to hear from you. Drop a comment below!