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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

‘Upstream Color’: A Mind-Bending Science-Fiction Masterpiece

Movie poster for the film Upstream Color starring Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz

In 2004, Shane Carruth made his out-of-nowhere feature film debut with Primer, an esoteric and enthralling time-travel story made for a shoestring budget ($7,000) cobbled together by the young software developer from Texas. Despite widespread praise for the film, a full nine years would pass before Carruth would return as director, writer, producer, editor and star of “Upstream Color" (2013)—an evocative, neo-sci-fi thriller that quite nearly defies written description.

Ostensibly, the storyline is focused on a young woman named Kris (Amy Seimetz) who is drugged with a potent organic substance, brainwashed and robbed by an unknown assailant, and after some time finds herself telepathically linked to a stranger named Jeff (Carruth) who she chances to encounter. Jeff, she soon learns, has experienced a similar case of robbery and exploitation, and as they come together they begin to sense that a third character, a shadowy figure known only as “The Sampler”, somehow ties them together in an ominous and inexplicable manner.

The beauty of "Upstream Color" lies in Carruth’s ability to draw out the complicated and ambiguous storyline through a fractured narrative that challenges the viewer to piece together the dream-like fragments and implications like a elaborate puzzle. Not particularly audience-friendly in any sort of traditional sense—Carruth transcends the viewers’ expectations with this film to create a wonderfully original and intellectually stimulating experience bound to galvanize and arouse you. It's genuine, one-of-a-kind filmmaking that will stay with you long after the credits have come and gone.


View the trailer:


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