14A, 96 minutes
Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth
When Shane Carruth came out of nowhere to win the 2004 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance with his exceptionally frugal brainteaser Primer, the story of its making got ahead of its significant accomplishment. Carruth has returned nine years later with Upstream Color, an intensely beautiful and enigmatic puzzle picture, it’s clear that Primer wasn’t some bolt from the blue, but the embryonic beginnings of a major filmmaker. Working with a larger budget—though very little all the same—Carruth has the means to expand another dense, sophisticated conceit into quasi-experimental marvel, as visually arresting as Primer (Carruth's first film) was limited by necessity. The two films share in common an absolute faith in audiences to follow their curlicues of logic—Carruth even ends scenes a few seconds before another director would, trusting viewers to get the idea—and an eerie, destabilizing mood, as reality itself gets radically reconfigured.
To describe the plot of Upstream Color is an exercise in comical futility, but here goes:Amy Seimetz stars as an effects artist who’s abducted and implanted with a bioengineered grub that holds her in a hypnotic trance. By the time she recovers—via some sort of pig-related resuscitation process engineered by Andrew Sensenig (see: comical futility)—Seimetz has no memory of what happened, but she’s mysteriously drawn to a young, disgraced trader (Carruth) who seems to have gone through a similar experience. The two share an intimate relationship, spiked by mutual fear and paranoia, and their memories and identities start to muddy and converge inexplicably.
Scott Tobias-A.V. Club