Monday, January 13, 2020

Fast Color

I was pretty disappointed when Boston wasn't on the list of cities where Fast Color played this spring - or maybe it was and I just wasn't checking times at the Liberty Tree Mall yet, but when you go out that far, is it still playing Boston? I have liked Gugu Mbatha-Raw in pretty much everything I've seen her in from Undercovers forward, and this sort of superheroes-meet-indie-film thing is my thing. Then I missed it at other times it played the area (as part of the Boston Women's Film Festival and Bright Lights) and more or less resigned myself to watching it on disc. I smiled big-time when I saw that the Brattle had not only included it in the "some of the best of 2019" program, but paired it with Captain Marvel. That's a potentially fun double feature!

So, yes, this worked out pretty well. It's always funny when I can move a disc from the "recent arrivals" shelf to the "stuff I've seen" ones, and while some might say it's a waste of money, it just makes it easier to push the disc into others' hands, especially if the movie vanishes from streaming services when the TV series version comes out, as movies are wont to do.

Fast Color

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 12 January 2020 in The Brattle Theatre ([Some of] The Best of 2019, DCP)

Their work is just one of the elements that go into making Fast Color a nifty little movie, but I'll bet that the visual effects crew had fun with this one. What they do is simple to describe, but great-looking, with detail and room for imagination. That goes for the movie, too, which marries B-movie sci-fi to personal drama in immensely satisfying fashion.

Meet Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw); she's been on the run across a near-future (or alternate-present) America which hasn't seen rain in years, capable of getting into trouble on her own but also hunted because her shaking fits correlate to earthquakes, and that's the sort of thing that gets sinister government types on your trail. For better or worse, her path has brought her back home to where her estranged mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) is raising Ruth's daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney). They've got gifts, too, though not nearly as powerful or out-of-control as Ruth's, and Bo is all too aware that Ruth coming home doesn't just mean the possibility of government agents more dangerous than Sheriff Ellis (David Strathairn), but the sort of upheaval that a mother with Ruth's troubled history might bring to nine-year-old LIla.

On a certain surface level, Fast Color is a ton of sci-fi pieces that viewers have seen before but put together just right; the synth-heavy music and the slow apocalypse in the background recall a time when independent genre filmmakers didn't have a ton of money to fill every frame and would let the emptiness or dirty little details like signs referencing the water shortage put the audience in that other place. The filmmakers use the sense of doom hanging over the world to enhance not just the personal stakes for the rest of the film but the paranormal ones surrounding Ruth; even if the audience is at a point where it takes government scientists hunting people with strange powers for granted, the world teetering adds a bit of extra urgency, even as its familiarity keeps it from blotting out the more personal stories.

Full review on eFilmCritic

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