Upstream Color (2013)


Plot: A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives. Source: IMDb.

I remember starting The Tree of Life and dropping it after the first fifteen minutes since Terrence Malik’s style, cinematographically gorgeous as it was, bored me to death. A few months later I watched his The New World, which I adored, and now, when watching Upstream Color, I could have sworn it was his film. The visual style and the pacing are appallingly similar. I’d say Malik was, at least, Shane Carruth’s inspiration.

I love how Alex (AND SO IT BEGINS) put it: Upstream Color is a film you don’t observe. You experience it. It’s not a story in a traditional sense, but it’s not pretty and pointless sequences of visual gorgeousness – it’s a continuous flow, smooth and subtle and easy to admire. Much harder to grasp or adore, though. When people start talking, it doesn’t feel awkward, only organic, which is an accomplishment in itself.


The beginning was easily the best part of the film but also the most terrifying part. What happens to Kris is horrible, cruel, and unjust and the sad, wrecked tone this creates carries on until the end of the film. When it all starts coming together, the film loses something in the process.

Upstream Color is a sure way to leave a person perplexed and amazed. I can imagine a vast amount of emotions that can come from this film: disgust, sadness, anger, breathlessness, maybe even love. It is undoubtedly a unique experience and as the film concluded, all I could think was “huh.” Everything else came later – this review, in example, took a week to write. It’s interesting to feel completely drained inside and bubbling with amazement at the same time, I can tell you that. If you yet haven’t seen Upstream Color, be sure to experience it, it is definitely worth your time.

10 responses to “Upstream Color (2013)

  1. Pingback: Man, I Love Films – MOTM/LAMBCAST #188: UPSTREAM COLOR

  2. I could barely make it through this movie but have seen Tree of Life at least twice. The experience sadly did nothing for me, but I can understand and respect why a lot of people liked it. I’m sure if I saw this on the big screen. I might have had a different reaction. Good review.

    • I would’ve killed to see this on the big screen. Would’ve been powerful. I’m sorry you didn’t like it so much – but thanks for reading still!

  3. Isn’t it wild that a film can unspool and leave you so damned uncertain over what you’re actually *seeing*, and yet you love it so much for that uncertainty. For me, this might well be the best sounding film of 2013…something that demands good headphones if being watched at home.

    The best description I came across for this movie was that “it would be like being stuck in a perpetual state of awakening from the greatest dream you ever had”

    Considering my state of sleep deprivation when I first watched it, this couldn’t possibly be more true!

    Not to pimp my own work, but just in case you were curious:

    • Oh!! Going over to your review right now!

    • Alright, read your review and commented – awesome! I don’t know how you do it, but you completely captured the essence of the film. Just… keep on writing, man.

      I’ll pay more attention to the sound next time I’m watching this, then – since I didn’t capture that part. Hmm. Might have to move the rewatch up my queue now. Thanks for reading, Ryan!

  4. Good review Elina. Liked it a lot better than Primer, that’s for sure. One of the main reasons being is that this one actually had more of a story behind it, one that not only had me amazed by what Carruth was able to do, but because, even at the end of all of its craziness and bleakness, there was still something that touched me.

  5. Brittani Burnham

    I’ve had this in my Netflix queue for awhile, now I finally feel like I can watch it. Great review!

  6. Certainly looks like an experience.

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