Upstream Color Review [Sundance 2013]

Chase Whale

Reviewed by:
On January 27, 2013
Last modified:January 31, 2013


Upstream Color is perhaps the most polarizing movie in, well, forever. But whether you love it or hate it, there is a lot to admire here.

Upstream Color Review [Sundance 2013]

It’s been nine years since elusive filmmaker Shane Carruth blew everyone’s minds with his super-low budget time travel movie, Primer. He took home some awards at Sundance in 2004 and had Hollywood swinging from his nut sack on gold threads. But, Carruth somewhat vanished from the film scene and didn’t make another movie until now.

His sophomore feature is Upstream Color. I would tell you what it’s about, but your guess is as good as mine and I’ve seen it. What I can tell you is that it’s definitely a movie, actors are in it, and there’s a plot — I’m just not too sure what it is.

Upstream Color is a movie that needs to be seen completely blind — don’t watch the trailers, don’t read the synopsis, and maybe stop reading here. I’m going to be as vague as possible from what I’ve gathered, so this review won’t give away much.

The protagonist is Kris (Amy Seimetz). She’s an editor at a film company. One night she’s robbed and tasered by a hoodlum. He injects a worm inside of her, for reasons we do not know, and soon after, her life starts to feel like a really bad acid trip that would make Hunter S. Thompson smile from ear to ear.

Casting Amy Seimetz as the lead couldn’t have been better. This indie darling is constantly working on abstract films and can play the delirious character very calmly and cool. Seimetz has a personable essence to her, which makes her relatable and home-y. As Kris, we’re not sure if we’re supposed to feel sorry for her or be on her side — we just know she’s being put through the ringer as punishment or for redemption. Perhaps this is what Carruth wants the audience to decide.

Upstream Color is a very layered and complex movie. But it’s also rich and beautiful and I expect nothing less from the crowded and radiant mind of Carruth. But it’s difficult to express how much I admire this film without writing a whole lot of positive things to say. You will not know what you’re watching until the very, very end, and even then, chances are high that you still will not know what you just saw.

What makes this a compelling piece of work is the discussions with your friends that will take place after seeing Upstream Color. Theories are endless and chances are none of them are wrong. There are so many moving parts in Upstream Color — it’s a well-oiled machine. Just a very confusing well-oiled machine.

Upstream Color Review [Sundance 2013]

Upstream Color is perhaps the most polarizing movie in, well, forever. But whether you love it or hate it, there is a lot to admire here.