REVIEW: “Fast Color” (2019)

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Each year there is a movie that comes out of nowhere and absolutely knocks my socks off. Most of the time it’s a smaller film worthy of more press and deserving of a much bigger audience. So far no 2019 movie fits that description better than “Fast Color”.

The film is directed by Julia Hart who also co-wrote the screenplay with her husband, producer Jordan Horowitz. “Fast Color” premiered at SXSW in 2018 and was met with strong reviews but no distribution deal. Even after it was eventually picked up by Lionsgate subsidiary Codeblack Films, a split between the companies left the film in limbo. Lack of marketing led to no exposure making it impossible for “Fast Color” to grab the attention it deserves.

That has to be frustrating for Hart and everyone involved especially since their film is genuinely something special. It’s part dystopian science-fiction, part moving family drama. Most surprisingly, it could be defined as a superhero origin story, but one not directed by source material or restricted by franchise obligations. Instead it’s a highly original work with its own unique pulse and more things on its mind than caped crusading and cosmic threats.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw has superpowers in trailer for Fast Color Credit: Jacob Yakob

First the setting: in the American Midwest we learn it has been eight years since the last drop of rain. People can’t grow food and the prices of water have skyrocketed. A fabulous Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Ruth. When we first meet her she’s clearly on the run from something. Soon we learn she suffers from uncontrollable tremors, so violent that they trigger small earthquakes. Of course superpowers like that would draw the attention of the government who are desperate to find and study anything they can to end the planet’s slow demise.

Frightened and with nowhere else to go, Ruth flees to the one place she can potentially feel safe – home. Once there she has a tense reunion with her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) who has been raising Ruth’s daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney) for ten years on a remote country farmhouse. Hart begins to shrewdly unpack the complicated family history surrounding three generations of women. The less you know the better, but I’ll say this much: All three have special powers that have been passed down through the women of their family. But Ruth struggles, even portrayed as “broken” due to her inability to tap into her abilities.

While you could call “Fast Color” a superhero movie, it doesn’t draw its strength from spectacle but from the mysterious wonders of ordinary life and the relationships that help shape us. Many small details both physical and emotional bring weight to the story and resonate through Hart’s canvas. And they help to explore the wealth of stimulating themes: the power of maternal bonds, embracing individuality, family legacies, addiction, and that just scratches the surface.

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So many elements add to the rich and engaging storytelling. Hart and her cinematographer Michael Fimognari do a variety of interesting things with the camera from elegant tracking movements to well-framed stationary shots. Rob Simonsen’s score is most often quietly effective but other times emotionally stirring without being manipulative. There’s the strong supporting work from Toussaint (I hope Oscar is paying attention), Sidney, and the always reliable David Strathairn playing a small town sheriff. And of course Mbatha-Raw who is convincing, committed, and utterly compelling. How is she not considered among our best working actresses?

It’s a real tragedy that “Fast Color” has been all but lost among the waves of 2019 movie releases both large and small. But it’s not too late. After a botched marketing campaign and minuscule theater release, “Fast Color” is now available on several streaming platforms (Vudu, Microsoft Movies, Amazon Prime, iTunes). There simply aren’t enough of these experiences out there – movies willing to infuse familiar genres with fresh, creative, and thought-provoking ideas. Beautifully conceived both narratively and visually, thematically rich and full of inspiration. This is a film truly worth championing and I’m happy to do so. It also happens to one of the year’s very best.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

4-5-stars

26 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Fast Color” (2019)

  1. Oooh I’ve been wanting to see this! Glad it’s available on Prime. I adore Gugu Mbatha-Raw (in fact she’s my inspiration for my female protagonist in my film Hearts Want) so I’m sure I’ll love her in this.

    • It’s so good and it’s frustrating to see it fall between the cracks. Mbatha-Raw is phenomenal and brings so much feeling to her role. I’ll definitely be championing this film.

  2. Oh I have wanted to see this so badly. I’m happy to hear that it’s finally streaming. To my complete shock, it opened in just FOUR theaters here in TX (two of which are 6-7 hours away). I hope to check it out soon!

    • I absolutely adore it. Bought it through Vudu and have watched it a couple of times. I’m pretty sure it would be my favorite 2019 movie so far (if I did such a list). It’s disheartening that so many people have never even heard of it. I would love to hear your thoughts.

      • I FINALLY got to see it! Just posted my review. I was deeply moved by this project. It’s so beautiful, so quiet, so simple, yet rich and complex all at the same time! It’s one that will stick with me for awhile I think. Already looking forward to a second watch. I’m sure I’ll find more to fall in love with.

      • That’s great to hear. I want to champion this movie because it deserves a bigger audience for all the reasons you mentioned. I’ll be sure to check out your review.

    • I can’t praise it enough. I’ve watched it three times now and have found new things to love each time. It’s such a shame no one is talking about it.

  3. wow where did this come from?? It sounds amazing, I’ve always preferred smaller films – I have always maintained the notion that less money (ie less CGI) forces more creativity from those involved, though I have no idea of the budget. ANOTHER 2019 film to add to my list, it never ends!!!

    • This is easily one of my favorite films of 2019 but yet it’s a promotion was all but botched about the studio. It is definitely a smaller budget but it’s so well done. I’m really championing this movie but sadly too few people have seen it.

      • smaller budgets inte3rest me more than large ones almost always. I like the sound of it, heh you’re championing of this movie sounds like me with I Am Mother. Sadly I don’t think many will see it but I hope to be wrong.

      • agree 100%. I hope by the end of the year more people overseas have seen it. It deserves the attention.

        I’d certainly love to hear your thoughts on it mate

  4. Finally watched this mate! I was tired and nodded off for a brief few minutes, but I think that was enough to hide the more hidden parts of their family dynamic. I agree with you on the lead actress, she should be well known, especially after this, but like you said no one will see it sadly. It sure as shit won’t play here, even in Sydney or Melbourne.

    TBH tho I didn’t recognise any of the actors haha, which is never a bad thing as long as they are good, and they certainly are. I think I may recognise that sherriff dude from somewhere but who knows where. As for the rest, I’d never seen them before. That probably upped my enjoyment of it.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention that drowned out colour palette, even stuff like… I’m taking Logan at random as its the first I thought of, although obviously its a blockbuster, but I’ve never seen such a world captured soooo well through colour alone, specifically the shit-ton of shades of brown, which made the ending stand out even more IMO.

    The closest post-apocalyptic world I can think of regarding colours was David Michod’s The Rover, a great aussie flick from 2014. Though this one somehow looked even more…. lo-fi is the best way I can describe it.

    I must watch it again while properly awake! But I can already tell its deserving of the praise. If not for this little blogging community I’d never have heard of this!

    • AWESOME! Great to hear it made in impression (even while you were sleepy, LOL). I’ve watched it three times and it still has an effect on me. Great mention about the color palette. It really works well. Also love when anyone mentions “The Rover”. I truly love that movie and championed it when it came out. It was in my Top 5 for films that year.

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