Film Review: Upstream Color

On my computer I have a list of films, recommended by Empire Magazine as being 4-Stars or better. And I go through it from time to time and I look up the prices of them on Amazon, and decide that just because The Jungle Book collection is out on Blu-ray doesn’t justify spending £20 on it and that, leave it a bit and the price will drop. I should point out that this list dates back to September 2012 “waiting for the price to drop”!

However, recently, I realised that a few of the films on the list were available to rent through the Curzon On Demand service I have access to as a Freesat user. Brilliant. And so, having worked my way through the list, ticked off the “Curzon” films, I decided that Upstream Color would be the first to viewed.

Maggot - Upstream Color

Now, every movie on this list is based upon nothing more than Empire’s review and I’m sad to say, that while it’s been a few months since I last watched a film on the basis of their review, remembering back, I was actually coming to a conclusion that Empire were either afraid of upsetting people, or being overly generous with their scoring, as I wasn’t enjoying their recommendations quite as much as they claimed I would. And sadly, once again, Upstream Color has restarted this problem.

I went into the film knowing only what Empire had told me; in fact, I still haven’t actually watched the trailer the whole way through. I knew a very basic, one sentence plot synopsis and that was it. This meant that the film could take me where ever it wanted to go, and it didn’t disappoint. The problem is though, where it goes makes absolutely no sense what-so-ever. In fact, I have a friend who I know would simply describe Upstream Color as “A complete and utter mind-f*ck”. Sorry for the language.

I was expecting a dark, psychological thriller. And right now, I have no idea if it is or it isn’t. Mainly because I have no idea what exactly it’s about. There is virtually no dialogue, everything on screen is played out through staccato style clips that while long enough to attempt to convey a story never seem to stay long enough to complete the narrative. I’m always wary about plot spoilers in my reviews, but this time, I think I can describe it from start to finish and not give anything away because I truly have no idea exactly how it all connects together.

Amy Seimetz & Shane Carruth - Upstream Color

But maybe, that’s the point?

Basically: it’s a film about people who get a maggot inserted into them, become open to the power of persuasion to such an extent that they willingly give over their material lives and then, once freed in a bizarre medical procedure involving pigs, strive to piece together the fragments left in their psyche. See what I mean? Maybe, I’m not meant to be able to make sense of it because they, the characters on screen, can’t make sense of it? If so, it’s achieved its goal but really, confusion a good film does not make.

For me though, this confusion is just compounded the more and more the film goes on. Firstly, you have Amy Seimetz and Shane Carruth (who also wrote and directed it) in the lead roles. A couple who come together but never explain truly their connection and especially his part in everything. And worse comes when Andrew Sensenig arrives as pig farmer come medical madman. Is he fixing them, freeing them, trapping them. I have no idea. And the involvement of the pigs is strange. Especially when it starts to imply that the lives of the pigs and the main characters and in-synch. Hurt the pig hurt the human. What!?

Andrew Sensenig & Pigs - Upstream Color

I even went through on phase of thinking that actually, the humans were the personification of the pigs lives, but as time goes on that gets dispelled as nonsense as well.

It doesn’t matter how confused, lost or puzzled I got by this film though, because annoyingly, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. The best way to describe it is exactly that situation you find yourself in when you see someone across a room that looks familiar. The sense that you know them but cannot place where from or why, and as a result, just sit there, eyes locked on, wondering. This film evoked that same reaction.

I really don’t know if I can recommend this film or not. Or even what rating to really give it. Like I said, I couldn’t take my eyes off it and yet I have absolutely no idea what it really was about. Confused? Yes. Entertained? Somewhat.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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