Upstream Color

(USA, 2013, 96 mins, Blu-ray Disc)


"Shane Carruth’s 2004 time travel drama Primer provoked endless scrutiny for its heavy reliance on tech speak that the director refused to dumb down. His long-awaited followup, Upstream Color, also maintains a seriously cryptic progression […]

The one-man-band filmmaker-actor-producer-composer-cinematographer-visionary strings together a series of incidents that alternately hint at a science fiction thriller, an existential romance and finally a dreamlike spiritual awakening. Amy Seimetz stars in a moody performance as workaholic Kris, a single woman abruptly kidnapped in the opening act and forced to ingest some kind of mind-controlling maggots into her bloodstream. Under the hypnotic influence of an ominous man, she’s brought back to her apartment and ordered to engage in a series of peculiar tasks, from memorizing passages from Henry David Thoreau’s classic nature treatise "Walden" to folding paper into enigmatic origami.

All of this is a prelude to her captor forcing her to withdraw money from her bank account — which makes it seem as though "Upstream Color" were chiefly about mind-controlling thievery, but then things get really strange…

Carruth’s official description for the movie is that "identity becomes an illusion" [ …] which pretty much sums up the challenge of sorting out each isolated event. This might be a frustratingly muddled venture were it not so beautifully enacted. Carruth’s effervescent, Phillip Glass-like orchestral score and delicately constructed images create an immersive product that’s unquestionably genuine even as it eludes firm answers." Eric Kohn, Indiewire

"Having the movie wash over me was one of the transcendent experiences of my moviegoing life… It’s utterly perplexing, and heart-stoppingly beautiful, quite literally overwhelming." Sam Adams, The Onion AV Club

“Bold, impassioned, ecstatically beautiful…in a class by itself at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.” Scott Foundas, Village Voice

"Upstream Colors certainly is something to see if you’re into brilliant technique, expressive editing, oblique storytelling, obscuritanist speculative fiction or discovering a significant new actress." Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter