Shane Carruth’s sophomore film, Upstream Color (2013), is a rich and layered story told through a series of double-entendres and paradoxes that makes the film a unique experience for its audience. Told in the same breath as a David Lynch film, attention to the details and the acknowledgment of different levels within the story are needed to interpret what appears to be, at times, apparent absurdity.
We are introduced to a shady individual (Thiago Martins) who has weaponized a drug through worms he grows in his garden. One night, while trying to sell his drugs, he ‘tasers and administers a potent dose of worms to an unconscious young woman, Kris (Amy Seimetz). The drug hypnotizes its victims, and the dishonest man begins to rob Kris of all her financial means. Once all resources have been exhausted, the robber leaves the young woman untouched, but deeply troubled.
When Kris awakens, the worms have grown to a disgusting size and upon seeing them move under her skin, tries to take it upon herself to rid her body of them. I will not diverge into the story much further since it will take away the majority of the story’s plot and much of the film’s rewarding surprises. However, the young woman randomly meets Ryan (Carruth) on a bus one day and they realize they have a connection that is beyond their comprehension. It appears Ryan has gone through the same ordeal. Together they try to piece together their unconscious appeal for one another and the relationship to random noises and feelings they both hear and feel.
I’m not going to try and pretend that I understand the film’s intentions at this moment. However, I do note that there are several underlying meanings that try to incorporate characters and situations that would appear to be completely unrelated. The use of David Henry Thoreau’s masterpiece, Walden, plays a key character in the film to great effect. Again, not that I am able to piece together this puzzle completely (perhaps the border and a few handful of pieces here and there) the book conveys certain significant expressions that points the audience towards the film’s intentions. That is, if there even is one.
Overall, this film will be on many critics’ favorite listings come year-end. I’m afraid, however, that a large majority of audiences will be let down by its lack of natural storyline. But, if you are a David Lynch fan, there is no excuse for you to miss this film – it may very well be a classic for you!