I’ve come to the conclusion that this is more of a visual art-work than an entertainment movie. It was written and directed by Shane Carruth (Primer 2004) who also stars in the co-lead role of Jeff. Treating it as a movie I would classify it as a sci-fi romance, but only barely just. We are given glimpses of information that may or may not add to the plot. The first thing to say, is that you cannot watch this movie like an ordinary cinema offering hoping to do nothing more than entertain. Upstream is a story, visually as well as through words, It might take more than one watching to fully appreciate the movie. Throughout the movie there are a number of visual clues and prompts placed in to the scenes, if noticed/seen they add to the understanding plot and the movie.
This movie is about the unseen powers directing us, including the power of attraction. Does the power of attraction take over a couple and their perception of the world outside? Do their experiences together begin to merge into one shared history? Once of the key characters is a young lady called Kris (Amy Seimetz, The Sacrament, 2013). She is kidnapped and forced to consume mid-altering/controlling bugs (more maggots), these may be associated with a particular plant, though the scenes with the plant may be out of time sequence. She is held in her apartment where her kidnapped sets her to do a number of tedious meaningless tasks over and over, once he is happy she is truly under his control, he manipulates here into going to the bank and essentially giving him everything, done to her house. This and the various other acts, ruin her life, these are actions she has no memory of, but must live with the consequences.
As if life had not already thrown enough curb-balls at her, she now finds herself linked to a man called Jeff (Carruth), their paths cross a number of times and they begin a relationship, there is something wrong, deep down both know this but cannot identify what. There is a link, for some reason they can share the same childhood stories, she is able to correct a detail in a story of his childhood he is telling, after a number of events such as this, they bring the issue to a head. Kris confronts Jeff wanting to know why he is confusing his memories with hers, or is he?
To further complicate things, we come across a man who is playing strange sound clips (taken from everyday life) into the ground. He has what looks like an isolated pig farm, he also grows maggots, the same maggots Kris has inside her. Through the sounds Kris eventually ends up at the farm where he transfers the maggots from Kris to one of his pigs. Again here we begin to see attraction between two of the pigs. We also see a connection to a plant, does it have a toxin, what is the importance of the colour blue?
You will probably have to watch, emphasis on “Watch” this movie a couple of times to get all of the visual clues from it. I would like to tell you the plot, but I would have to know what it was first. This is a close to unique movie, it is not for the lazy viewer. Give it the attention it deserves and you will enjoy it. If you are the type to enjoy a mug of cocoa or some pop-corn with your movies, make sure you have them before you sit down, because this is not the movie you can simply watch in the background. To write any more would just be added guesswork, this movie is visually appealing, tightly scripted and is either:
0/10 – if you get worked up by the complexity, or
9/10 – if you don’t get all worked up by the complexity.