Welcome to the 2019 CIRCUIT CONSIDERATIONS series. Highlighting the very best in film, acting, and technical achievements for the past 12 months that awards voters may need help remembering. Each day a different writer will make their plea for a specific film in a respective category. If you miss one, click the tag “Circuit Considerations 2019,” and if you have some suggestions, include them in the comments below!
Sometimes the best performances are the most understated. When it comes to the Oscars – and most awards-giving bodies – bombast and transformations tend to prevail. In a lot of ways, Gugu Mbatha-Raw’ s performance in Julia Hart’s beguiling “Fast Color” is the anti-awards performance. That’s exactly why she deserves to be nominated for Best Actress.
Mbatha-Raw has been a star in the making for some time now, but for whatever reason it hasn’t quite happened yet. She deserved recognition for her pop star turn in “Beyond the Lights.” She hasn’t lead as many films as her talent would suggest but has turned in strong supporting roles in “Miss Sloane” and in the Apple TV+ show “The Morning Show.”
“Fast Color” allows Mbatha-Raw to live so deeply within a character in a way previous roles haven’t. She plays Ruth, who has the uncontrollable power of shaking the Earth when she has seizures. Ruth seems to live a life on the run. That doesn’t change when it becomes apparent scientists are after her and want to study her powers. No place feels safe, so Ruth returns home to her mother (played by a tremendous Lorraine Toussaint). It’s not an easy choice because of the family’s history.
A great deal of “Fast Color” feels ambiguous but Mbatha-Raw finds clarity in Ruth’s life of deep uncertainty. Her performance is so naturalistic, wearing the pain and history of Ruth on her face at every moment. Mbatha-Raw is most effective in the quietest moments of “Fast Color.” She silence speaks volumes to the life she’s endured. It takes a talented performer to help an audience understand an entire character’s history without spelling everything out on screen.
Hart and co-writer Jordan Horowitz‘s script fills the movie with such empathy and understanding for the characters and Mbatha-Raw brings it to life. We don’t know where Ruth will end up next – and how could we when she rarely knows – but Mbatha-Raw ensures us Ruth will be okay. She has persisted and she will continue to do so.