Review: Upstream Color / Cert: TBC / Director: Shane Carruth / Screenplay: Shane Carruth/ Starring: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig/ UK Release Date: TBC
It has been eight years since Shane Carruth’s directorial debut, the dense, intelligent, time travel drama Primer. His follow-up, Upstream Color, is on the surface more accessible than his first film and yet somehow seems to be an even more baffling experience. Here the complex time travel mechanics are replaced by layers of meaning and emotion and a meditation on the threads that connect all of us to each other and the earth.
The plot kicks off with a woman (Seimetz) being drugged by a man who uses maggots in drug capsules, somehow gaining control over her mind. The woman withdraws all of her money to give to this man and finds her body crawling with worms. The worms are removed by a pig farmer who also happens to sample sounds of the world in his spare time. The worms are then placed into a pig. Sometime later the woman meets a former criminal (Carruth) who sports the same scars as her. The two form a bond and fall in love. As they get closer they start to realise that they share many of the same memories although they happened long before they met. They come to realise that something greater than themselves may be controlling their fate.
Upstream Color is not a film which will leave you with a definite idea of what happened come the credits. There is no expository monologue or big reveal. Instead we are given lots of gorgeously shot scenes of decay, nature and the everyday often accompanied with dialogue spoken in voice-over. Time seems to stop and start at will, dictated by the mood and the characters' connections to each other. It is baffling, beautiful and bizarre and, approached in the right frame of mind, one of the most rewarding trips of 2013 so far. What you get from this is up to you and what you bring to it. Carruth seems to be saying something about connection and its drawbacks and going against nature’s grand plan. Going with the flow of the movie (downstream as it were) is the best approach. Letting the feeling and visuals wash over you and having patience will pay off, as those looking for meaning may find it come the ending.
Shane Carruth's sophomore effort reveals him to be one of the most interesting directors working today; it's an enlightening, spiritual trip well worth taking and will no doubt be discussed, enjoyed and puzzled over for years to come.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10