I was mind-blown, for sure. "Upstream Color" got me blown. Shane Carruth's previous flick, "Primer", takes more than a single view to understand (and I understand it after a second-viewing; in my first view I was like, "What the hell is this movie?") because Carruth likes to make his own law in a world he created for the movie. Now, it takes only a first attempt to not only understand, but also be blown by it (maybe because I have prepared my mind before watching it?). Yes, this is the kind of movie you have to anticipate not by preparing snacks and cola, but by setting up your mood and refreshing your brain instead. Pay close attention to what is happening and make sure you notice every detail.
I don't know what I have to write as a synopsis for "Upstream Color" not only because I avoid making spoilers, but because I also don't know where to start. LOL. And the synopsis written in its IMDb page is probably one of the most absurd synopsis I have ever read. But the thing is, we know that a woman named Kris (played by Amy Seimetz) is put under trance by a man for money. As soon as her consciousness is back, she meets Jeff (played by Shane Carruth). The two then fall in love and try to connect to each other as they reconcile with their pasts.
"Upstream Color" is grounded on its own world with its own regulation. It takes you to understand the ground first before trying to enjoy its story because if you don't stand on the same ground, you won't enjoy the story as a whole. But I guess, since I myself am able to understand it just from my first viewing, you can capture the big idea of the story in the first viewing too. Easy, this is not the kind of riddle game movies like those of, say, David Lynch because there is still a good coherence and correlation from one scene to another scene. What is way more interesting is the idea. For me, Shane Carruth doesn't only make a movie: he makes a pseudo-scientific theory and sets up a few ground rules about the theory. I guess he starts writing the script by thinking about this theory first rather than arranging how he wants the story be explained. He knows that he needs to develop the background clearly, so he doesn't need to make a somersault package with too much overturning style. "Upstream Color", finally, is more than just a movie: it's a presentation of a concept.
You'll still be able to enjoy the subplots, but without comprehending the theory, I doubt that you'll be able to capture the idea and finally find it less interesting. It silently thrills you, and in a certain way, it is psychologically haunting. But, in most parts, it is also a heart-breaking elegy of love. Carruth stays in a balanced proportion of adequacy, letting the viewers be starved by their own curiosities. No one, not even me, has ever imagined that this blend of drama and sci-fi can be so much thought-provoking. It is a calm river stream that flows down to a rocky waterfall. "Upstream Color" is full of enigmatic concepts (that's why I called it "a pseudo-scientific theory" because the possibilities of it being proven by today's science is arguable, although there may be a chance) and I agree that Carruth is undoubtedly a new genius on this field. "Primer" has turned into a popular cult, and I guess "Upstream Color" is gonna be the next one.
From the two paragraphs above I think you still can’t catch the reason of why you should watch this movie (beside, I didn’t even write a good synopsis about this movie so I guess until this line you are still questioning what kind of movie “Upstream Color” really is). The basic idea is, “Upstream Color” is a search of identity. The sci-fi side of this movie doesn’t come up from technology or modern physics sort of things, but from biology and psychology. The basic questions like why people do certain things, why we think in a certain way, and why we decide something are the factors that “Upstream Color” has in order to touch viewers right on the most hidden part in our brain. So easily questioned, but not so clearly answered. And Carruth offers his own imagination wrapped in a full-package concept of pseudo-science as an alternative answer that is probably way too far from the ground, but still tickles the far side of our brain. This is a good movie to debate, but since I watched this movie with no company, what I really did after finished watching it is asking to myself, “What if it really happens in our real life?”
Shane Carruth did most parts of the movie by himself. In “Upstream Color”, he is the screenwriter, the director, the star, the producer, the composer, the editor, the cinematographer, and the camera operator. The plot only revolves around Seimetz and Carruth, but I guess it is not interesting to discuss their acting. The score is what is most interesting. I love the score; it supports the atmosphere of curiosity of the movie by playing a kind of techno, ambient, and wavy sound effect. Feels a bit repetitive, but still interesting. The dynamic movement of the camera sometimes feel a bit overload (like the way the camera rotated to 90 degrees or so), maybe because Carruth wants to give more treatment to the concept itself. The editing is nice; I love how Carruth and his co-editor, David Lowery, puts blank screens before some heart-jumping scenes. So conventional, but gives a more dramatic effect.
I expect something more climaxing in the ending actually, but the third act is enough to get me astonished. Without the concept, “Upstream Color” is just a plain movie with an unclear story. It is your own curiosity that turns over the draggy storyline into a haunting sensation. If you read this review after watching it and still can’t understand the whole concept, I think you should read this post from Slate (beware: so much spoilers in there) and try to give this movie a second-viewing. I am really intrigued to watch it again. This is a movie that is not only entertaining, but also expands your insight.
▲ A brain-tickling concept, attracts curiosity, cool scoring
▼ Needs extra effort to understand, exaggerating camera work
UPSTREAM COLOR | COUNTRY USA YEAR 2013 RATING n.a. RUNTIME 96 min GENRE Drama, Sci-Fi CAST Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins, Kathy Carruth WRITER Shane Carruth DIRECTOR Shane Carruth MORE INFO