Upstream Color (2013)

Upsteam Color - Glass and Walden

Upstream Color is strongly inspired by Terence Malick’s filmography, whether it’s borrowing particular shots or themes – a hand gently brushing across a surface, a flock of birds silhouetted against a pale sky – or appropriating the feel of his films. The resemblance surprised me given director Shane Carruth’s last movie, the intensely intellectual time travel drama Primer; shot on an almost non-existent budget, the film was easy to respect but difficult to love, its knotty narrative leaving little room for emotion. Upstream Color, on the other hand, is a deeply emotional film.

Upsteam Color - Birds

Malick’s films often begin with concrete, straightforward narratives that are smudged into enigmatic poetry by his elliptical editing. Upstream Color has an incredibly detailed, specific storyline – something about psychic worms and pigs and Walden – beating under the surface, but it’s generally obscured by a focus on a dreamlike style and rhythm. I admit to not fully understanding the story; for me it resonated as a meditation on the transitory nature of identity, of being lost within the prison of one’s own self.

Upstream Color didn’t hit me quite as strongly as Malick’s best works, but it was an intriguing, thought provoking experience, and a film I’m eager to revisit.

Rating: 163/200

5 thoughts on “Upstream Color (2013)

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  4. Great review!

    I think I actually do understand the story, which is one reason I like this so much. I don’t know that I get all of the themes, symbols or poetry though. And that’s the other reason I like it so much.

    • I didn’t fully understand the story in my first viewing, but I had a pretty good understanding of what was going on after the second viewing. Now the third viewing I can relax a bit more rather than treating it as a puzzle. 🙂

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