Director Julia Hart, as well as co-writer and producer Jordan Horowitz, conducts an original superhero film that will surely become a monumental example of quality female stories. Set in a nearly-vacant American Midwest town, Fast Color follows, Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) finding her way home to her mother and daughter after years away in need of help controlling her seemingly destructive powers that cause seismic disruptions to the earth. The stunning film with illuminating performances, thoughtful storytelling, and a soaring score brings new possibilities for narrative and superhero films.
With cinematographer Michael Fimognari’s dry and haunting images, the film’s dystopian, Midwestern world becomes a vital character as the story unfolds. Hart and Fimognari’s images allow the bright blue sky to maintain dominance in each frame, which becomes imperative to the plot. As we travel with Ruth to deserted motels and stores with bare shelves, we find that life is less about living and more about surviving. The conditions of the mostly-abandoned world, with a severe drought, beautifully illustrates the hopelessness for change or a better world, and the few flashbacks filled with warm skies, bright flowers and the greenest of grass provide further context to how lifeless the land has become.
What will hopefully interest a wide audience is the film’s fresh take on the superhero genre. The film remains firmly in the independent narrative genre, but is equally a superhero origin story, creating the intersection of genres that fans of either or both will appreciate and adore. Hart’s film succeeds in staying firmly grounded in its story and its characters while also rooting the supernatural elements seamlessly, a testament to Hart and Horowitz’s writing. Without the major setpieces superhero films have become known for, Fast Color’s establishment of a realistic dystopian world with future, yet increasingly feasible, dire hardships paves a new path for the genre.
As someone who has highly-anticipated this film since Mbatha-Raw’s casting announcement, being thrilled and pleasantly taken aback by the actress’ immense ability to express every emotion with such clarity and humanity is to be expected from each of her performances. She’s somehow able to be even more impressive as the film’s protagonist. Mbatha-Raw digs deep into her insecure character as she tries to escape the authorities and her powers. The actress tenderly confronts her character’s fear to use and understand her gift with such compassion, and we’re granted permission to witness Ruth grow into herself and transform. Because the film is a new approach to superhero movies and navigating a different vision for the genre, her profound prowess as an actress is not only imperative to its success, but also elevates the film as a whole.
Young actress Saniyya Sidney excellently presents the opposite of what Ruth struggles with as her daughter, Lila. While Ruth struggles with fully trusting herself with her abilities, Lila is confident in her powers and youthfully curious, which Sidney portrays with vibrant authenticity, about what other possibilities the world she hasn’t been exposed to offers. And it is Lila, with great assistance from Sidney’s performance, that brings the estranged mother and daughter Ruth and Bo, exquisitely played by Lorraine Toussaint, together. Toussaint portrays the protective nurturance of the ultimate matriarchal figure that many are fortunate to know in such a powerful manner that allows Bo to be strong in her own right and further empowered in her determination to protect her girls.
Fast Color could feature any group of actors, yet it becomes evident, in the final act especially, to be most authentic to its powerful story that it needs a black, female family at its center. From birth, black women are conditioned by the world to believe that we are unworthy of greatness and that any traces of it must be concealed. But Hart’s film, with tremendous help from the leading women’s performances, beautifully paints the black woman’s ability to unleash this stowed away power within herself and the next generations and sacrifice everything to do so. If the sky is usually the limit, the women of Fast Color, in front of and behind the camera, dare to go beyond.