I didn’t understand 2013’s Upstream Colour, but I don’t think you’re meant to understand it. You’re supposed to experience it and let it seep in. Shane Carruth has made his own thing; this is not a Hollywood movie in any way shape or form – it feels like Steven Soderbergh making a Terrence Malick film. It’s cold, clinical and dreamlike.
Carruth’s film has a free-flowing narrative that involves drugs, parasites, pigs, lovers and hope. To try and give a plot breakdown would be an exercise in futility – to paraphrase Frank Zappa – it would be like dancing to architecture. It’s a science fiction fever dream, a precise creation that defies any type of genre classification. However, it doesn’t feel like Carruth never knew what he was making. He wrote, directed, scored, produced and starred in Upstream Colour, and he knows what it is even if we don’t.
This isn’t the type of film that could be explained in a Hollywood pitch (or a review). This had to grow, be born and then exist. Suffice to say, it’s great in all technical levels – Carruth gives a realistic performance in a film that skirts around reality and Amy Seimetz is also impressive in the lead role. Like Carruth she delivers honest work that straddles reality and a dream-like existence, but we always feel she is a fully realised character.
It’s almost pointless writing a review for Upstream Colour, you have to watch it and draw your own conclusions. To merge two John Lennon lyrics – turn off your mind, relax and float upstream.