I really fucking hated Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. It was an unwieldy self-conscious mess of a film that was so pretentious even I couldn’t make excuses for it. And trust me, I love a bit of pretense in my art.
I didn’t think I would like Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color based on so many people using Malick as a starting point of comparison. But it was more related to another auteur that critics used in their analysis of this film: David Lynch.
The story is a simple love story between two who unknowingly meet after they had been abducted, used to house parasites in order to grow blue-colored orchids, have all of the money and assets stolen and have their lives completely turned upside-down. They meet on the train, get married, realize they shared traumatic experiences and liberate a pen of pigs.
Sure it makes no sense when told in that matter, but the way actor, director, producer, composer, writer and cinematographer Shane Carruth presented the movie it makes perfect sense. I fell into the movie wrapped up in trying to figure out which reality I was in, what the fuck was going on. When the credits rolled at the end of the film, it all made sense. But most importantly, it made sense in a way that felt fulfilling.
This is a pretentious movie but not so much so where it’s just a director masturbating on film for two or three hours. This is David Lynch-lite, just obtuse enough to hook you in but not so baffling to leave you confused for years.