Years ago, a young filmmaker named Shane Carruth earned himself quite a reputation with his low budget time travel movie 'Primer.' It is quite telling that it has taken nearly a decade to follow that up. This comes to us in the form of 'Upstream Color.'
While in a club, Kris (Amy Seimetz) is drugged by a thief (Thiago Martins). This particular drug renders the victim highly influenced by the thief in a form of mind control. The thief coerces Kris to empty her bank account and to convert her home's equity into cash. A special worm/nematod/whatever was put into Kris' body in the drugging process (it carries the properties which create the trance-state) and it grows inside her body. This is important because a pig farmer/field recorder (Andrew Sensenig) attracts the worm inside her body (and thus, the rest of her) using infrasonics. He removes the worm from her and puts it into one of the pigs.
One would think that our protagonist's dilemma would be over, but she has to return to the real world to try to rebuild her life. It turns out, she has a symbiotic relationship with the newly infected pig. On top of that, it seems as though many people have undergone this bizarre procedure and are trying to move on with their lives as well.
As you watch this, it is easy to follow much of the plot on a superficial level, but there are a number of details that might seem unclear. This could affect your enjoyment of the film. It does invite a certain amount of replay value and outside reading. If you go that route, many of these ambiguities can be cleared up and the overall appreciation for the plot can be increased substantially. The different sections of the film are more closely related than one might initially believe and that becomes impressive, especially in hindsight. The parasitic theme exists in a three-fold manner. Maybe the symbiotic theme and the mind control angle are strange, but for the benefit of the story, let's just go with that.
Though Carruth has again taken on the task of controlling nearly every aspect of the film and doing so on a limited budget, the advances in technology allows this to look incredible.
Just like many other 'independent' films, there is an air of pretension that sometimes drags things down. The clearest example that can be given are all of the times when characters are on screen wordlessly staring or silently pondering something. Shaving these scenes down even a little bit would have inched the runtime a bit closer to the 90 minute mark and would have helped to move things along. Also, a few scenes that toy with the audience (are they meeting in an empty office building or the pig farm?) come across as self-consciously arty and don't serve the narrative.
Special features includes: nothing.
Just like its predecessor, 'Upstream Color' is unlikely to set the world ablaze in terms of the number of people who actually see it. Those who stumble upon it blindly may very well dislike this very much.
Those who are in the know and are willing to give it a try are in for a ride. It is one of those films that truly would benefit viewers who are willing to give it multiple watches and to dig a little deeper.
Not Rated 96 minutes 2013