Upstream Color – A Review by Kyle Jonathan

Upstream Color

2013.  Directed by Shane Carruth.


What draws us to one another?  How can you explain the feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time and it’s as if you’ve known each other your entire life?  Shane Carruth’s puzzling masterpiece, Upstream Color, is an artistic triumph, a one of kind exploration of the human condition that is a transcendent science fiction emotional epic.  What begins as a hypnotic violation transforms into a careful examination of desire and intimacy, using philosophical concepts and poetic visuals to impart a story about breaking the chains that confine relationships and embracing the basic connections that define humanity.

Carruth wrote the script, which tells a cyclical love story that is compounded by a profound investigation of partnerships.  Replete with abusive symbolism, indescribable loss, and unimaginable parental terror, this is a truly unique film that deftly evades summation, requiring a surplus of patience and a complete surrender to it’s surreal presentation.  Carruth’s delicate cinematography has a dream like quality whose marriage with the film’s (also created by Carruth) entrancing score creates a world within the screen, slowly pulling the viewer into its gentle warmth with each imaginative sequence.  There is a terse mixture of brilliant colors and muted environments.  Everything brims with life, but as the characters begin to work through their situation, everything is presented as purposefully restrained, slowly, inevitably regaining more and more vibrancy as the narrative coasts towards its hopeful conclusion.


Carruth and Amy Semietz are sensational as Jeff and Kris.  The film has a paltry handful of dialogue riveted into specific segments that act as a guide post more than an explanation, keeping the viewing within the story’s confines, but allowing them to float from one idea to another as the images and revelations entwine to form the center of Kris and Jeff’s coupling.  Semietz taps into raw primal energy and leaves everything on the screen.  Heartbreak, attraction, bereavement, revenge, and salvation are all played out with perfect nonverbal communication, whose intensity only magnifies with each viewing.  Victimization is one of the most important parts of the story, but Semietz portrays this as a natural, expected side effect of an intense relationship, rather than a pitiable aftermath.  Hurting the ones we love is a constant theme in cinema, but Carruth subverts this idea by giving the concept a metaphysical representation of a living organism that pervades through Jungian oceans of time.

Available now on Netflix, this is a thoughtful, beautifully constructed argument for the merits of the soul.  Endlessly divisive due to its lack of coherent structure and traditional dialogue, this is a movie that will confuse as much as it endears.  A touching love story with a sci-fi twist whose enigmas glacially unfold throughout its somber resuscitation, Upstream Color is an experience like no other.

Highly.  Highly Recommend.



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