Julia Hart’s Fast Color is a marvelous superhero origin story merged with a generational family drama. This film is smart and has depth and often times is visually stunning. Hounded by unexplained energetic dynamics and a Sherriff, a young woman named Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) struggles to gain control of her magical abilities as she escapes back to her family in an attempt to rediscover the superpowers within her being, passed down to her, from previous generations in her family tree – which she opposes of and had a difficult time embracing. After hiding out for several years, Ruth goes on the run when her supernatural abilities are discovered by the government. It’s been several years since Ruth neglected her family, and the only place she feels safe to go, is back home to her roots.
From the opening sequences and well into the first act, we’re left in a mystery as to what in the world is going on in this story and why it should hold any significance. We know the answers are coming, but writer/director Julia Hart wants us to go through a series of uncertainties and unknowns before we can fully comprehend what’s occurring before our eyes, so that we can appreciate the value of its meaning. The film opens with a brief voice-over of Ruth’s mother, Bo (Lorraine Toussaint), who’s concerned about Ruth and how she’s able to survive in the world outside. Bo mentions how it hasn’t rained in 8 years and the government’s only solution is to raise the price of water. This line in the screenplay is strategically placed early on and resonates with us in the audience once we realize the significance it holds upon the film’s climax, in relation to Ruth’s superpowers.
Ruth has the power to play God on Earth and change the color of the sky, drive the winds, cause clouds, rain, and ultimately cause any object to disintegrate into lovely, vivid colors. But Ruth has lost control of her powers due to her stint with drugs and alcohol, which gave birth to a series of seizures amid her recent sobriety. Her seizures are reminiscent of earthquakes that rattle the ground and shatter the glass of cars and windows. Ruth could never get a firm grasp on her seizures in her youth, so she turned to drugs and alcohol, which made the seizures disappear. When Ruth finally tracks down her mother, she reveals her sobriety of 11 months, but the seizures keep returning, and she hates it.
In the first act, Ruth is breaking out of an abandoned building and manages to check-in to a grungy, grimy motel to wash the blood off of her wrists. She contacts the front desk to inform them to duck and cover, then hangs up the phone before we begin to see her first episode as she lays back in bed, having a seizure in conjunction with an earthquake occurring outside. The following morning, Ruth enjoys a poached egg at the local diner where she meets Bill (Christopher Denham) who offers to buy her a cup of coffee that Ruth can’t afford. When Ruth’s car is ticketed outside by local cop, Bill offers Ruth a ride, only to dupe her by revealing his true identity – a government official. After Bill threatens Ruth, she brandishes the gun in her bag and fires off its only bullet, wounding Bill’s hand in an escape back to her family, in hopes of making sense of her superpowers.
There are uncertainties at this point in the story, which is well past the first thirty minutes and we still don’t have the slightest clue who Ruth is, what she struggles with, and why it’s of significance. When we learn her mother, Bo, suffers from the same seizures, it starts to shed some light, but we’re still not told what they are and why they have them. The answers we seek come throughout the progression of the plot, but the storytelling is unconventional in terms of leaving a major question mark for a great portion of the film, thus heightening the mystery through the suspension of information, setting up a beautiful payoff in the film’s climax.
Despite all of its initial hesitations and uncertainties, Julia Hart’s Fast Color has a momentous payoff that strikes a profound analysis of the film’s underlying themes. This film is much more than a mere superhero origin story. There is a lot of care and emphasis placed upon profound topics, rather than the typical superhero film that’s only concerned with action and adventure. This is a film about never forgetting your roots, your family. It’s about courage, perseverance and strength. It’s about concentration and imagination. The concept of Ruth losing her superpowers and seizures once she succumbs to drugs and alcohol could be the religious notion that God is taking away the innate magical abilities he gifted upon one of his children because of her use of intoxicants in her body. Once she proves her sobriety, the seizures return and its up to Ruth to gain control of them and use her powers for the greater good of humanity. These themes are wrapped up in the genres of science-fiction and thriller from its creator Julia Hart with profound intentions of spreading a message to the world. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has a bold stage presence. She carries every scene enchantingly, captivating us in every frame. The film is supported by a wonderful musical score in a story about family dynasty, a mother’s legacy, the gifts of the universe and the power of the skies.