Fast Color: A Magical, Female-Driven Family Drama

From director Julia Hart and her husband, producer Jordan Horowitz, comes their cowritten feature, Fast Color.

The film, a sort of sci-fi drama, is set in a barren and apocalyptic world, scarce due to a devastating drought. It tells the story of Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a young woman with supernatural powers who is discovered and quickly hunted by mysterious forces. Without nowhere else to run, Ruth realizes she must return home to the old farmhouse she left long ago. There, while being tracked by the local sheriff (David Strathairn), she must confront broken relationships with her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint), and her daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney), who she’d abandoned. It is through these challenges that Ruth realizes the strength she needed was inside her all along.

Says Hart: “I wanted to tell a story that had women and mothers as superheroes. So much of the superhero iconography is male-dominated. It’s about destruction. It’s about creating a bunch of buildings and then blowing them up to save the world. I wanted to tell the female version of that, which is to create something in order to save the world.”

Horowitz, too, appreciates the layers of creation in which the film is grounded. “Julia’s work tends to be very humanistic,” he says. I think that is always the core of what she does and the way that we write. We are really interested in character, first and foremost. And following where character leads you. In that respect it is a drama, because it is about people. For us behavioral authenticity is really important. So those are all aspects of the drama. But we like putting those things against a backdrop of something that feels a bit more genre, a bit more cinematic, sort of a bigger scope than just people in a room talking. So the people are at the forefront of the work, but I do think there are also elements of fantasy, elements of science fiction, elements of world building in a way that genre films tend to be world building.”

The creative duo was especially influenced by the works of Steven Spielberg and the Coen brothers, as well as the female-focused film Thelma and Louise. “We talked a lot about the way sci-fi films used to be more human,” says Hart. You look at Close Encounters. You look at the early Amblin stuff. It’s got the spectacle and visual aspects, but it’s also got humanity in the characters and the relationships between the characters.”

Hart was also able to get her first choice for the character of Ruth’s mother, Bo—Lorraine Toussaint. “The script was wonderful,” says Toussaint. “It was unusual to see not only three generations of women who seem to possess unusual abilities and it’s in the blood and though we never name it, it’s clearly passed on from generation to generation, and then it was even rarer to see women of color, black women.”

Casting Gugu Mbatha-Raw was envisioned as a first choice as well. Says Mbatha-Raw, “I really responded to the fact that it was a completely unique story. I’d never read anything of this tone. For me it’s a drama about three women learning to own their own power.”

Catch Fast Color in theaters, April 19.