Upstream Color - Movie Review

Today’s review is a Netflix pick.

Upstream Color opens slowly and steadily. We watch patiently as a mysterious man harvests worms from exotic plants. What these worms are used for isn’t entirely clear at first. Eventually it becomes evident that they possess hypnotic properties if prepared correctly. The man we’ve been watching up to this point, the Thief (Thiago Martins), intends to use the worms for personal gain.

Soon after our introduction to this world, we meet Kris (Amy Seimetz). Kris appears to work for a production company and she’s aggravated. She’s on the phone with someone alerting them to a visible crew member in a movie scene. She’s putting out fires and bursting with nervous energy.

Later we watch as Kris is assaulted and exposed to one of these hypnotic worms. Soon enough, she’s out. Kris is unconscious and we see that she’s fallen into the hands of the Thief. Not only does this guy steal from her, he upends her entire existence and does so in a matter of days. Upstream Color is Kris’ story, but it’s Jeff’s (Shane Carruth) story too. In reality, it’s a lot of people’s story, but then, who’s to say what makes up reality anyhow? Yep, this is one of those movies.

From the beginning and straight through to the end, Upstream Color feels light and fuzzy, like a dream. That’s not to say Shane Carruth (Director) is attempting to blur the line between reality and fantasy, like Michel Gondry  did with The Science of Sleep; no. What Carruth does with this movie is challenge what defines us as individuals.

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Amy Seimetz is riveting as Kris. She’s so engaging that there were a couple of moments where I wanted to reach into the movie and shake her awake. Seimetz is delicate and nuanced in her performance, which makes a strong impact here. Her portrayal of Kris is powerful, intricate and intensely satisfying.

Shane Carruth as Jeff (Kris’ love interest) is familiar, warm, and patient. Jeff is the soothing balance that settles Kris. Carruth’s performance grounds this story, but at the same time, only adds to the chaos, which this film unleashes on the senses.

When I finished watching Upstream Color, I was overcome with emotion. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but it was unrelenting. All I know is that once the story began to unfold rhythmically, I started to feel everything, all at once. The ending was precisely the release I needed to clear my head so that I might understand what I’d just seen.

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The first time I watched this, I was paying close attention. The moment I noticed I was getting sleepy--it was really late--I stopped payback. I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on yet, but I was intrigued. I needed to know how this movie would end and I knew I wouldn’t be able to figure that out if I was half asleep while watching. Instead, I saved it for another day. I’m glad I did because I don’t think the story would have computed had I not re-watched the first half. Sometimes this sort of obscurity can be off-putting, but not with Upstream Color. This movie is going to make you think and will require you to flex your concentration skills, but worry not because it is absolutely worth the effort.



upstream color movie poster


Upstream Color – A

A = Movies this good don’t happen often and If you’re going to watch something you should watch this. This is exactly what I’m looking for when I go to the movies and I trust you’ll enjoy it if you keep an open mind and give it a chance.