Upstream Color Review

Upstream Color (2013) by writer, director, and producer Shane Carruth explores the lives of people that are unwittingly webbed together by an outside force. A form of brainwashing leaves its victims highly suggestible and able to be taken advantage of. A byproduct of this procedure connects two people afflicted by it emotionally in a powerful way.

Without a paddle

Upstream Color

I apologize for the vague introduction. I promise it is better to enter this movie knowing as little as possible about the plot. Rather than describe what happens in the film, I will give you some advice about watching it. Upstream Color conveys emotion rather than linear plot. During my first time watching the movie I had difficulty understanding the motivation of the characters. It turns out, this is the reason the movie is as brilliant as it is. As you watch each scene, try to simply identify the emotion the character on screen is feeling. Once this becomes habit you will forge connections and the movie flows like a symphony.

I had to watch Upstream Color twice. The first time I found things I liked about it but was left confused. On my second time through it, I felt like a fool for not understanding the subtleties. The writing will lead you down a path, but it is the viewers’ job to notice the details along the way. It will not be spelled out to you. Does this limit your audience as a filmmaker? Maybe. Is it a more rewarding experience for your viewers if you simply lead them to a stream, but let them be the ones to drink? I certainly think so.

Take Root

In conclusion, I highly recommend this movie. When reflecting on the film what stands out to me are the emotions the characters feel. The music and colors all work together to help you experience them as well. They made a lasting impression on me.


Amy Seimetz as Kris. Shane Carruth as Jeff. Andrew Sensenig as The Sampler.

Our Score
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