Whew. Where do I start with the masterpiece that is Upstream Color? *cue run-on sentence* This has to be my favorite film of Sundance 2013, and spontaneously deciding to stand 87th in the waitlist line for this film in the Library Center Theatre on a snowy Saturday afternoon in Park City, Utah will forever be recorded in my personal history books as one of the best decisions I have ever made, second to accepting Christ. *mouthful over*
Directed and written by Shane Carruth, and starring Shane Carruth, Amy Seimetz, and Andrew Sensenig, this film shows the aftermath of Kris’ (Amy Seimetz) life and psychological state after she is kidnapped and drugged by a thief. While trying to make sense of it all, a subway ride introduces her to Jeff (Shane Carruth), a banker with whom she shares a mysterious bond. They fall in love and try to figure out the supernatural force that is ruling their lives. It’s not entirely clear who, or what, this force is, but the pig farmer, played by Andrew Sensenig, looks a little suspicious, and I’m still not 100% sure of his role. However, his performance is captivating and downright wonderful, as are the performances of Carruth and Seimetz.
I could write a novel about what I think of this film, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll write about one thing that really stood out to me: the romance. In some ways, Upstream Color is an unorthodox love story. Despite Kris’ psychological state, Jeff never leaves her side. When Kris feels paranoid, Jeff goes the extra mile to let her know that she’s okay and that nothing’s out to get her. He resolves to marry her and loves her for who she is, and who she has become because of her circumstances. Even when Kris initially wants nothing to do with Jeff, he pursues her and ultimately wins her heart. I consider Upstream Color a great model for romantic relationships. It’s what we all want – someone who pursues us, loves us unconditionally, imperfections and all, regardless of our past. It’s also the way God pursues our hearts and loves us. Let that marinate.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Carruth after Saturday’s screening. I was only able to speak with him for about thirty seconds, but it made my
life week. It was mainly me thanking him for making the film and talking about how it inspired me to get out and shoot more footage (which will happen very soon). And Mr. Carruth, if you happen to stumble across this blog, I didn’t say this on Saturday, but I am really happy that you and Upstream Color exist and I will be the happiest human being on the planet if you would teach me everything you know. I can’t wait to watch Primer and I hope everything works in your favor for A Topiary.
In addition to writing, directing, and starring in the film, Carruth also scored it and was the cinematographer (how the heck did he do all that?!). Told with minimal dialogue, Upstream Color is a visual treat with captivating cinematography and brilliant sound design that are just surreal. The entire film put me on sensory overload. When the credits rolled, I wasn’t even sure if I liked or understood anything I’d just seen. This film was still on my mind as I drifted off to sleep that night, and I realized how long it’d been since I’d watched a film that had such a profound impact on me. In some strange way, Upstream Color is the film I didn’t know I needed. Now, I’m in love.
I can’t wait until I get to see this film a second time.
Update: If you’re interested in reading more about Upstream Color, I wrote a second post about it. That post contains spoilers so I don’t recommend reading it if you have not seen the film.