Review: Fast Color

Written and directed by Julia Hart, co-written by Jordan Horowitz, after years in hiding, a woman is forced to go on the run when her superhuman abilities are discovered, after having abandoned her family, the only place she has left to hide is home. Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Strathairn, Lorraine Toussaint, Christopher Denham and Saniyya Sidney.

This is not your average superhero film, so if you go into it expecting a lot of action sequences and explosions then you’re going to be sorely disappointed but go in with an open mind and you could find an interesting dramatic twist on the larger picture of having powers. Fast Color is a slow burn, there are no shortcuts to finding out what powers Ruth (Mbatha-Raw) truly has, instead it presents them as an obstacle to her survival, plagued with earthquake causing seizures and tracked by government scientists. The film explores the many things that your average hero film misses, the consequences that it has on their family members, the generations that have come before, the effect everyday struggles can have upon their powers and how it damages their relationships.

That’s perhaps where the script is strongest, the graceful and understated way that it handles the fractured relationships between Ruth, her mother (Toussaint) and her daughter (Sidney). There aren’t any melodramatics, her seizures may cause tectonic shifts but her return to the family home and the danger she brings with her is dealt with gracefully, she’s welcomed back and attempts to reintegrate herself as calmly as possible. It demonstrates that at the heart of this film is a family drama, the choice to tell it through a superpowered lens adds extra layers but it doesn’t take away from its overall tone. The emotions it holds could be considered rather understated as with the style but they do rear their heads a little stronger in its final moments; although it’s a shame that they don’t hit harder throughout. There’s also an abruptness to its writing, going back and forth from the family to chase storylines isn’t the most smooth of transitions, the two aspects don’t quite feel blended together well enough. There was the potential for a stronger tension or suspense to the story to really add a kick to its finale but it was a missed opportunity.

Hart’s direction works really well with the cinematography (by Michael Fimognari of Doctor Sleep and The Haunting of Hill House), it doesn’t stray too far from its drama roots but it adds enough to set it slightly outside of the world we know. Their use of colour has some very strong moments but it’s a shame that it wasn’t further brought into the story, to enhance the power aspects, it’s used surprisingly infrequently considering it has a lot to add visually and thematically. Its style and colours are reminiscent of Midnight Special but reined in a little more. It’s slow in both pace and style, the way the filmmakers shot the film is thoughtful and purposeful, instead of injecting doses of action it keeps a consistent style throughout.

The casting of this film chose two very reliable actors to lead its story, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is yet to have her real breakout moment despite bringing consistently brilliant quality performances in films like Belle and Miss Sloane. She’s incredibly suited to the role, she brings a great vulnerability and emotion balanced with bravery and great survival instincts. She’s also fantastically paired with Lorraine Toussaint who is criminally undervalued in Hollywood, despite having memorable performances all throughout her career, from Hudson Hawk to Orange is the New Black. Toussaint brings a strong, stoic presence to the role as well as being incredibly caring and supportive. Most of which is aimed at her granddaughter Lila played by Saniyya Sidney who you might recognise from American Horror Story, Hidden Figures or Fences; she has a sincere charisma, curiosity and burst of energy to her character while playing her as mature for her years. It’s an impressive performance coming from someone so young and she can be next seen playing a young Venus Williams in King Richard.

Fast Color presents an interesting spin on the superhero story, using it to explore the mother, daughter relationship and a lesser touched upon aspect of characters having powers. It leans a little too heavily on its understated, dramatic style and could have integrated it with the sci-fi element of the story more to balance the two more satisfyingly. It’s a shame that the idea of the characters being able to see colours that can’t be perceived by other people wasn’t embraced more strongly, it has a lot to add visually and would have been great to see it used a bit less sparingly. Hart has created a unique take on the superhero story which is extremely worth watching and has something new to add to the conversation but isn’t without its flaws.

Verdict: ✯✯✯

Available on Netflix now!

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