Directed by: Julia Hart
Written by: Julia Hart & Jordan Horowitz
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lorrain Toussaint, Saniyya Sidney, Christopher Denham
It’s easy to forget in the oversaturation of big-budget superhero films that intimate and touching stories can be told with similar premises. Not every superhuman film needs to cost $200 million in hopes to garner $1 billion in the box office. By trimming it down to the basics, this film has the ability to show the real human cost and the impact of possessing these powers can have to individuals rather than having to fight aliens from outer space.
Set in a future where rain has not been seen in eight years, Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) lives on the run after being sought after for her abilities. These specific abilities are of great interest to the government, as when she has her episodic seizures, they can cause an earthquake and thus creating a large amount of damage in the process. While running away, she runs into her past and her future as she tries to harness her power.
The fact that this film exists serves as a triumph in my eyes, as it contains superhuman characters not trying to save the world but just trying to survive. Their powers do not appear as a blessing, but a target placed on their back against their wishes. Additionally, it focuses on three generations of African-American women and the trauma they have each experienced because of these powers. A beautiful exploration and not one done often enough in the genre filmmaking.
That idea of trauma truly ails the protagonist, Ruth, and that causes her inclination to run away. She’s very aware of the damage that can be caused by the powers she possesses and she wants to ensure that everyone around her does not suffer the consequences. That trauma is also shared with her mother, Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) who has her own path and has needed to cope with the struggles her daughter has been facing since she was young. A pain carried through generations of these women and the allegory becomes very easy to connect to the real world and that’s where superhero films, just like any piece of fiction, can visualize human struggle through extraordinary means. The powers mean something in this film and the intentionality of it all makes sense. They don’t have laser blasts just because it may be cool like in other films, these powers have a purpose and play into the narrative.
While this film did not break into the public consciousness, it did give Gugu Mbatha-Raw the ability to lead a film all on her own and she should be given more opportunities to continue to do. Such an underrated actor and she brings so much depth to the performance with how she conveys the pain of her character and the decisions she needs to make in order to survive. I can only hope that this performance will be the fuel that will get her into higher-profile roles that brings her more in front of the masses. Along with this film, she was also excellent in Beyond the Lights and Belle, which required two very different performances in very distinct films with all of them being directed by female filmmakers.
Thus begins the ascent for Julia Hart with this film, as she tackles such a mature topic and the way she inserts her themes shows incredible promise. Fast Color marks the first film of hers I have seen but I’m excited to see what else she has to offer because she made this film look incredible for a much smaller budget than these types of stories typically receive. She definitely did more with less and I hope she gets the opportunity to have more resources to expand on her filmmaking prowess. Beautifully told and hard-hitting, this film provides so much for audiences to think about.