Review: Gugu Mbatha-Raw in "Fast Color"
Friday, April 19, 2019 at 8:30AM
Abe Fried-Tanzer in Fast Color, Female Directors, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Julia Hart, Lorraine Toussaint, Reviews, Rob Simonsen, Saniyya Sidney, post-apocalyptic, superheroes

by Abe Fried-Tanzer

When it comes to great actresses who haven’t become household names despite terrific performances, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is at the top of the list. In 2014, she was headlining Belle and Beyond the Lights, both to much acclaim. I’ve been a fan of hers since the 2010 NBC series Undercovers, a quickly-axed show that I’m pretty sure only I liked. Shortly after it was cancelled, she had a role in the Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts comedy Larry Crowne and it looked like her career might really be taking off. After supporting parts in projects as diverse as Miss Sloane and A Wrinkle in Time, she’s now taking the lead role in a superhero movie, which Chris first reported on more than two years ago.

As 90% of movie theater audiences hold their breath waiting for the 181 minute Avengers: Endgame to be released, this is something completely different...

Mbatha-Raw’s Ruth has powers that she can’t control, and the way that they manifest compares most closely with the violent, destructive seizures experienced by Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier in Logan. Unsurprisingly, she’s being hunted both by those who fear her and those who see the potential in harnessing her abilities for "research" purposes. Trying to lay low gives her the unexpected opportunity to bond both with her mother (Lorraine Tousaint) and her young daughter (Saniyya Sidney), who possess abilities of their own. 

Director Julia Hart's new film is best defined as a contemplative superhero movie, one that finds its protagonist completely unwilling to embrace her identity. Ruth could change the world for the better if only she could be understood. She dismisses the superhero moniker, telling her daughter that they are merely trying to get by. As Ruth tries to discover herself and grasp the colorful visuals that come from her abilities, this film presents them beautifully, assisted by a marvelous score from Rob Simonsen. Like the mesmerizing TV series Legion, Fast Color pauses to express awe at the incredible things its characters can do, showcasing the wonder of it all rather than jumping straight to explosions or fight sequences. 

While Mbatha-Raw is a fantastic fit for this role, it’s not one that demands all that much from her, content to show us that she is indeed capable of anchoring a film like this. The film’s mild post-apocalyptic vibe doesn’t feel like it’s headed anywhere other than to make its lead character feel more isolated due to the precious few people she does encounter. The music and visuals drive the story much more than the plot does, creating a series of captivating, compelling moments that lead up to a surprisingly strong and powerful finish, indicating that this universe has plenty more to offer than this particular chapter. 

Grade: B

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