I don’t think it’s fair to Fast Color to call it a “superhero” film. Not that the genre as a whole or even in part is derogatory, mind you, but in the case of this independent film, such a label almost diminishes its accomplishments to superficial points. Again, not that the genre is wholly superficial by nature. This is a movie of origins, of finding/re-discovering one’s power and, potentially, a new world to resurrect and save. Through visions of family and generational trauma, Fast Color stands tall as a specialty listing, something I would call a “Pre-Power” story. When that power comes alive, the results reach fantastical heights.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as Ruth, a woman in trouble and on the run in a place near ruin. Water is scarce, supplies are dwindling, and hope is almost lost. The world building here is staggering. We see convenience stores still open for business but with haggard and half-empty shelves. We see dirty-ish jugs of water sold for plenty of cash by hand to hand transaction. Dusty fields and emergency broadcasts litter our senses, with a return to Vinyl records and physical media being something worth noting in the background. The more resources we lose, the more we retreat to the past. For Ruth, retreating is all she knows. Now, she’s doing so back home.
Ruth has special abilities but has been told time and time again that they only go so far. Generations of women in her family have had these powers, to manipulate the elements and shift materials at will, but for fear of being hurt, they keep to themselves as best as possible. Her Mother has them, and so does her daughter Lila, for whom she is haunted by. With the Government on her tail, Ruth seeks control of her body and mind, not to save the world in a race against the clock or anything. Self-preservation is the name of the game, as are family secrets meant to maintain safety. Fast Color has every reason to keep these black women close to home and to each other. Certainly, the world itself hasn’t exactly been kind…
Any racial themes pulled from this movie feel mostly surface level (though arguments can be made), but the gender politics are pretty potent. If the world is to be saved, it’ll be by these women. Mothers to an aggressive and harsh world, somewhat. It’s in Ruth’s heart to want to help, but after the things she’s seen and done, keeping quiet is her best bet at survival. In Fast Color we find two other female characters: a bar owner and a motel manager with a child. Both are friendly, but seem exhausted. Of course they are, given the circumstances of their environments. The only men here are government agents and a local cop who are seeking control in differing ways and for differing reasons. The women of Fast Color, from being tied up and held back to being chased down and hunted, just want to be themselves as safely as possible.
Honestly, this is the world as it is.
With a musical score as beautiful as the photography on display – both composed with ears and eyes for the ethereal and beyond – Fast Color never feels long enough. It ultimately has an optimistic message of support that I wish I could’ve stayed with for another thirty minutes or so. As it is, though, the movie is a jewel of self-love and family bonds, of trust in the past and in the future, and of overcoming personal obstacles. It’s a shame that the film didn’t get much of a play on screens in its theatrical run, but thankfully it’s being rolled out in some capacity.
If Storm from X-Men were lost in a desolate America, seeking answers and help, this might just be her story. A story of heroes saving themselves first before they may save everyone else. A story of passing down knowledge and love from woman to woman, from power to power. A story that could and should ring well for many.
RATING: 4 / 5
Fast Color is now available (finally) streaming on most VOD platforms.