“Fast Color” is a little film which tries something different with its familiar premise. Revolving around the dynamic interactions among its three main characters who are connected with each other via not only blood and but also their inherited superhuman abilities, the movie comes to us as a modest but engaging mix between family drama and SF thriller, and there are several wonderful moments which touch us more than expected.
The movie is set in a near future world which has been suffering from a long period of inexplicable draught. Although the human civilization is not entirely collapsed yet, water has become a far more precious commodity than before while many other things also became pretty scarce, and one of amusing details in the film is nearly empty stores which do not have many commodities on shelves.
At the beginning, we observe the desperate ongoing situation of a young woman named Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who has been running away for years due to her superhuman ability. There was a time when she tried to suppress her power via drugs, but she has been sober during recent months, and she has struggled a lot to keep her power under control, though she still cannot help herself whenever she happens to have a seizure. Her seizure always causes a big earthquake around her no matter how much she tries, and she has no choice but to leave as soon as possible because there are some government agents tracking down her for her power.
Realizing that she really needs help more than ever from someone who understands her power, Ruth goes back to her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) although they have been estranged to each other for years since Ruth left their family house many years ago due to her personal conflict with her mother. Bo, who also has her own superhuman ability, believes that they should stay away from others for hiding their power just like their female ancestors, and she has stuck to her solitary lifestyle in her family house, which is located far away from a nearby desert town.
Bo is not alone because she has been taking care of Ruth’s little daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney). While Lila was the reason why Ruth decided to be clean and sober, she was understandably afraid of her possibility of inadvertently harming her baby daughter, so she gave Lila to Bo not long after Lila’s birth. Like her grandmother, Lila has a sort of telekinesis ability, and we later see her confidently demonstrating her ability in front of Bo and Ruth.
As days go by, Ruth becomes more comfortable than before at her family house, and the movie tenderly observes the relationship development between her and her two family members. Although they are often reminded of how much they hurt each other in the past, Ruth and Bo still feel the strong bond between them as a daughter and a mother, and it looks like they can mend their damaged relationship despite Bo’s reservation (“If it’s broken, it stays broken”). Although they understandably feel awkward with each other at first, Ruth and Lila become closer to each other bit by bit, and there is a small intimate moment when Ruth shares her childhood past with her daughter.
Of course, the situation eventually becomes a little more tense as those government agents come quite close to locating Ruth. After noticing something serious is happening around his town, Ellis (David Strathairn), the sheriff of the town, becomes quite concerned for a personal reason to be revealed later in the story, and that subsequently leads to his secret meeting at a certain spot which means a lot to him.
While the screenplay by director Julia Hart and her co-writer Jordan Horowitz, who is also the co-producer of the movie, takes an expected plot development during its last act, the movie keeps holding our attention as firmly focusing on the personal drama among its three main characters. Through her growing relationship with her daughter, Ruth gradually finds a way to embrace and control herself as well as her power, and there is an awe-inspiring moment when she finally experiences something akin to a big breakthrough. As beholding how much her daughter is changed around the end of the story, Bo comes to see what should be done for her daughter and granddaughter’s future, and there is considerable poignancy in her following decision.
Hart draws the solid performances from her main cast members. While Gugu Mbatha-Raw, a talented British actress who has been more notable since “Belle” (2013) and “Beyond the Lights” (2014), is convincing in her character’s gradual personal transformation along the story, Lorraine Toussaint and David Strathairn are dependable as usual in their respective supporting roles, and young performer Saniyya Sidney ably holds her own place between Mbatha-Raw and Toussaint. Whenever Mbatha-Raw, Toussaint, and Sidney are together on the screen, their chemistry on the screen is palpable to say the least, and that is exemplified well during one particular scene where their characters silently move around each other in the kitchen. Nothing seems to be conveyed to us at first, but we sense the growing tension beneath the surface nonetheless, and we come to wonder what will happen next among them.
On the whole, “Fast Color” is an admirable genre piece supported well by its good mood, storytelling, and performance, and Hart, who previously debuted with “Miss Stevens” (2016), shows here that she is another interesting filmmaker to watch. At this point, she has already moved onto making two movies to be released in the next year, and I will certainly have some expectation on them.