Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 12A
  • Drama, Sci-Fi
  • 2013
  • 96 mins

Upstream Color



Shane Carruth's second feature is an artful experiment in audience-addling alienation.


"I told you a story, and then you've taken it and made it your own - you do this all the time."

Kris (Amy Seimetz) is telling off Jeff (Shane Carruth) for confusing her childhood memory (of nearly drowning) with his - but this is only one of many confusions in a film full of mesmerism, deja vu, metempsychosis and parasitism. For in Upstream Colour, feelings are vicarious, thoughts are surrogate, and experiences are had by (porcine) proxy, as these bewildered lovers, having unwittingly ingested a mind-altering grub, struggle to reclaim their fractured sense of identity.

After tying viewers' brains in knots with his time-travel debut Primer (2004), polyhyphenate filmmaker Carruth returns to the theme of multiplied identity with a feature that, for all its strict chronological ordering, continues to confound with a set of parallel narratives whose precise interrelationship remains stunningly oblique. Carruth eschews easy exposition, instead deploying staccato editing, story-leaping match cuts, cool framing and organic sound design to hypnotise viewers into making their own connections between all his oneiric riffing - even if the actual explanatory frame, divulged by Carruth in interviews and readily available online, seems something of a pig in a poke compared to the wilder places to which this film's free associations might take us.

Still, even if the film's Lynch-like psychogenic fugue comes with a microbial solution of sorts, there is greater pleasure to be had in losing yourself (much as Kris does) to the throbbing ebb and flow of its motifs and ideas, as they get right under the skin. What could be better, after all, than to make Carruth's story your own?

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Shane Carruth
  • Director: Shane Carruth
  • Writer: Shane Carruth
  • Producer: Ben LeClair, Casey Gooden, Shane Carruth
  • Photographer: Shane Carruth

In a nutshell

Carruth's mindmelt of mesmerism, metempsychosis and micro-organisms will leave some a little cold, most bemused if not utterly baffled, and near all needing to see it a second time.

by Anton Bitel

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Thunder Island

    Thriller. A hit man (Gene Nelson) is hired to kill a former Caribbean dictator. He abducts a couple and their boat to reach the despot's island, but then his plans go badly wrong.

  • Film4

    The Enchanted Forest

    An old man raises a young boy who became lost in the woods, teaching him about life and nature

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF: five favourites

    Elena Lazic reports from the Toronto International Film festival on her five favourites of the fest. The Lobster Yorgos Lanthimos' success in realising the usually disastrous combination of farci

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF: five favourites

    Manuela Lazic reports from the Toronto International Film Festival on five favourites from the fest. The Witch What if the sorceresses and deadly spells in which people believed so fervently in th

Register with

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Tweets @Film4

  • "If it didn't take men to make babies I wouldn't have anything to do with any of you!" At 3pm, Lonely Are The Brave

  • We're screening Taxi Driver tonight at 11.15pm. Check out these Japanese & German versions of the iconic poster.

  • At 1.20pm, a mysterious policeman turns up at a family celebration with troubling news in An Inspector Calls.

  • Shane was nominated for 6 Oscars in 1954 (inc. Picture, Director & twice for Supporting Actor) and won 1: Best Colour Cinematography.

  • @FilmStudies_UoG Ha! Luckily, we're repeating Shane next Weds at 1.20pm.