Fast Color Review
Fast Color (2018) Film Review from the 6th Annual Chicago Critics Film Festival, a movie directed by Julia Hart, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lorraine Toussaint, Saniyya Sidney, and David Straihairn.
“Something that is already broken cannot be fixed.” This quote uttered throughout the film perfectly captures the theme and challenge that the central characters face in Fast Color. Directed by Julia Hart and written by both her and her husband Jordan Horowitz, the film centers on three generations of women in a family, including the main character, Ruth (Gugu Mbatha–Raw) her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) and her daughter Lila (Saniyya Sindey). Set in a dystopian future where buildings are in disrepair and abandoned, a bottle of water is twelve dollars, and there is very little in the way of law enforcement.
The film opens with Ruth on the run. We quickly learn that government scientists have been chasing her for years to study her abilities. Ruth has seizures that induce earthquakes, and is going from town to town working odd jobs for money and sleeping in vacant buildings. Realizing she has nowhere left to run, she returns home where her mother and daughter have been in hiding as they too have abilities. We than learn the entire family has the ability to disintegrate an object into thousands of tiny pieces, and then put it back together; an apt metaphor for Ruth since she is a broken woman in need of ‘fixing’.
What I enjoyed most was the filmmakers bending genre to keep us engaged and participate in the film with the characters. We go from a post-apocalyptic drama, to a sci-fi thriller, a family drama, and finally ending on what can be described as a superhero origin story. I also loved the cinematography, with beautiful landscape shots, lighting that plays an important color dynamic, and a trippy ending that is reminiscent of the stargate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There is very little dialogue, which means film relies on us inferring what the characters are going through emotionally through looks, body movement, and music. This works well for Bo and Lila, but unfortunately the actress playing Ruth (Gugu Mbatha–Raw) seems very limited in her expressions and range. Throughout most of the film, she has the same bewildered look of defeat. Another problem is we don’t see her face as the camera is frequently positioned at her back. Whether a result of choices by the filmmakers, or limitations by the actress, cinematically this is a strange decision. With such little dialogue and music, we as an audience must see the faces of actors to gather what a character is feeling in that moment.
In the end, the film is a fine effort trying to instill something different into the standard superhero genre, but the narrative cannot support the weight of the films ambitions, and falls into genre clichés of ethical questions on authorities and a family coming to terms with past sins. There are pacing problems, with points where the film drags (mainly the second act once Ruth arrives back home). About twenty minutes could be removed and you wouldn’t lose anything. The film also gets incredibly preachy, with the “women are creators not destroyers” message shoved in your face in scene after scene. It’s enjoyable enough, but its reach exceeds its grasp.
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