Story: It hasn’t rained for eight years, making water the world’s most prized resource. In this dried-out landscape, Ruth has been on the run and battling addiction, but decides to head home when the world becomes too much for her. But there are those out there who’d like to find her, and let’s just say there’s not goodwill in their hearts. Because Ruth has abilities. So does her mother and young daughter. Can these three stay safe? Better yet, can they reconnect?
Genre I’d put it in: Deep And Worthwhile Sci-Fi
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Original.
Gotta say: I loved this movie. It’s a very slow burn, taking its time as things unfold in their own time. Fast reminded me of Take Shelter, another film that allows viewers to come to their own conclusions as credits roll. This is a different film story-wise and character-wise, but the beautifully unsettling feeling of not quite understanding what’s really going on in this world but really wanting to know more is definitely here.
I want to talk about this film, and yet I don’t want to give too much away. Maybe I’ll be cryptic. But I’m extremely glad I hadn’t seen the trailer or press kit for this film before I decided to attend the screening. (What? I’ll go to anything Gugu Mbatha-Raw is in.) And I’m glad I went in blind, because not knowing what the story was about allowed me to enjoy every little reveal writer/director Julia Hart (and co-writer Jordan Horowitz) delivers. I’d no idea this was a superhero movie, for one.
Yep. It’s a sci-fi thriller, a family drama, and a superhero film; Ruth and every female member of her family along matriarchal lines has powers, and how the world could abuse those women drive the plot in this film. And I love how those powers are presented. Not as “Bif Boom Pow”, but as something quiet and grounded. It’s a refreshing new take on the superhero, and I thought I’d see in all in that regard.
Ruth’s origin story makes up the bulk of Fast, but the substance of the story is the relationship she has with her mother Bo (a quietly powerful Lorraine Toussaint), and the relationship she tries to build with Lila (The Passage‘s wonderful Saniyya Sidney), the daughter Ruth left behind years ago. Reconnecting with them helps Ruth assess her powers, and in turn her life and the world they live in. The plot doesn’t gloss over the problems the women have with each other, and how Ruth’s addiction tore them apart, even though we come to understand why Ruth did what she did. It also makes Ruth a more compelling character, as we see her struggle to stay sober as her world begins to fall apart. Mbatha-Raw delivers an affecting performance that pulled me in completely.
Fast is a family story, a family of generations and generations of women that just happen to have abilities. There were no racial over- or undertones in the characterizations; these characters could have been played by any group of actresses. Yet I think it’s important that they are women of color. It makes me angry that I’m typing this out in the 21st Century, but having POC just be people is important. Having women of color simply being themselves is something that needs to be onscreen more, because it’s real life. Okay, real life with superpowers here in Fast, but roll with me. There are no cookie-cutter characters with these three, each feels like a living breathing individual with good, bad and indifferent attitudes to the world and their place in it. And the talented actresses with their beautiful performances are worth the price of admission. That the story is a humdinger of a think piece is icing.
Rounding out the main cast is David Strathairn as Ellis the town Sheriff, whose past with Bo has him desperately wanting to help her and her family. Then there are the baddies, including Christopher Denham as a creepy researcher that wants to use Ruth’s powers, and see what makes her tick. Ew. Strathairn is always a joy to watch, and Denham gives excellent simmering creepy. There’s a fine line between threatening and silly, and the actor walks it well.
Yes, there are some hiccups here and there. Moments where plodding pacing is supposed to come off as artistic or deep. Mythology issues I kept scratching my head over. But honestly I didn’t mind; the story is a look at introspection and how to connect with yourself and those you love. The dystopian nature of the world is a backdrop, and I know it doesn’t matter to this story how they’re getting those half-jugs of water day-to-day, just that the rain isn’t there. Ruth’s journey to find herself after years of running and addiction is the real story here.
Still, I’d love to sit down with some folks – and a few beers – to hash out the world Ruth and the rest of the characters live in. Would our world still be lawful (for the most part) after eight years with no rain? And how is everyone getting water; where’s it coming from? But mostly I just want to see this captivating dream of a film again. I think I will.