‘Upstream Color’ Review: Shane Carruth’s Sci-Fi Film Disappoints
Shane Carruth struck a chord with viewers his debut Primer in 2004. His long-awaited sophomore effort Upstream Color, a tripped out sci-fi film, is a muddled mess that fails to hit the mark.. Carruth succeeds in bringing an excellent look to the proceedings, but the story is an incomprehensible wreck that fails to completely engage the viewer, which is ultimately too bad.
Color stars Amy Seimetz as Kris, a woman who – at least by appearances – is drugged, abducted and implanted with an exotic plant worm. The abductor then fleeces her of all her cash while she’s under hypnosis. The abductor will not resurface throughout the film nor be explained in any manner. That is a recurring theme in this film. There is a pig that becomes involved, a strange man who records sounds and shows up in numerous scenes, as well as some sort of karmic exploration and notions, but good luck successfully explaining any of it.
The fallout of Kris’ abduction makes her wary of men. She reluctantly forms a relationship with Jeff (Carruth). The lack of palpable compatibility between these two greatly foils that storyline. In truth, he’s not a very strong actor, but that would be forgivable if other things worked themselves out.
Carruth can get away with a lot. He made this film practically all by himself, from directing to writing to acting to scoring to the distribution of the film. Still, that doesn’t excuse a storyline that lacks any sort of clarity or sense of purpose. The nature of well-done science fiction forces us to explore something about ourselves and human nature. In this instance, the message, if there is a specific one, is so muddled that there is no point in trying to figure it all out.
I cannot recommend this film on any level. It’s too bad because it is shot well and some of the plot elements are exciting. It’s almost a companion piece of sorts to Terence Malick’s To The Wonder in spirit and look. Unlike that film, but in a similar vein, the execution is too indecisive to make things matter in the end though. Shame.