Review: Upstream Color

Upstream Color (2013) || MY RATING: 5/5

 In which a woman's consciousness bleeds out into nature, creating an unbreakable bond that will forever change the landscape of her mind. 

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When you watch Upstream Color you are being asked to question what outside forces, visible or not, shape your behaviour. Your enjoyment and appreciation of the film will be based on how willing you are to tackle that question and embrace the film's scenario, which is designed to truly illustrate how helpless we are in all of this. 

Watching this film, I was struck by the richness of it's imagery; on more than a few occasions, it actually resembles a Terrence Malick film. Personally, I feel that Upstream Color is a rare instance, where style and substance are colliding at full speed and the result is truly amazing. 

During the movie, I even found myself questioning how I write scripts. Shane Carruth writes in an abbreviated style--he cuts out any padding and fluff. For example, if a couple fights he realizes that the audience knows what that looks like and that they have seen that cliche play out a thousand times before. So he relies on that memory and skips to the resolution of the argument. He never allows a cliche moment to occur on screen. Even in an abduction scene, the actual abduction is left to our imaginations, although we see it's set-up and resolution. The end result is an incredibly dense film that is always presenting you with new information, like blocks that keep piling up in a bad game of Tetris. This strategy is purposely disorientating and helps the viewer empathize with the confusion the character is feeling -- in a very visceral way. 

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With this movie Shane Carruth shows the world that his first and only other film, Primer, wasn't just a case of beginners luck. He made that film ten years ago and it was starting to feel like he knew he could never top it. Time will answer that question but it is clear that he has crafted another labyrinthine film that people question and debate for years to come.

Reviewed by J.G. Lafleur