Upstream Color

  • Studio: erbp
  • Release Date: Apr 5, 2013

Universal acclaim - based on 27 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 27
  2. Negative: 0 out of 27

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Trevor Johnston
    Aug 27, 2013
    If you’ve ever sat at your desk wondering whether there’s more to life, or been kept awake by an insidious hum in the darkness, this will speak to your soul – even as its enveloping, disturbing, uplifting story sends your mind reeling with giddy possibilities.
  2. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Apr 11, 2013
    Part science fiction scare movie, part offbeat romance, part completely unclassifiable, "Color" is also one-man filmmaking of a remarkable sort.
  3. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Apr 3, 2013
    It might be fair to argue that the resonances of Upstream Color are too obscure and internal — many viewers have and will be baffled by it — but it’s the type of art that inspires curiosity and obsession, like some beautiful object whose meaning remains tantalizingly out of reach.
  4. Reviewed by: Rodrigo Perez
    Feb 5, 2013
    You may not be able to figure it out, but that's part of the point of this sensually-directed, sensory-laden experiential (and experimental) piece of art that washes over you like a sonorous bath of beguiling visuals, ambient sounds and corporeal textures.
  5. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Apr 18, 2013
    Upstream Color culminates in a wordless final act that is among the most transcendent passages of pure cinema in memory.
  6. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Feb 5, 2013
    Upstream Color is routinely confusing but not oppressively so; its final exquisite moments explain little yet still manage to invite you in.
  7. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Apr 25, 2013
    It’s all a neat trick. Or exercise. Or brain-teaser. Whatever you want to call it, Upstream Color is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. But once you have seen it, once isn’t going to be enough
  8. 88
    Dense, richly textured, and emotionally fraught - uplifting and devastating in equal parts - Shane Carruth's masterful sophomore effort is an abstract, elusive, but emotionally engaging love story that's more tone poem than drama.
  9. Reviewed by: Peter Keough
    Apr 11, 2013
    Henry David Thoreau plays an enigmatic role in Shane Carruth’s hypnotic thriller — an oxymoronic term to describe a film that is truly sui generis.
  10. Reviewed by: Simon Abrams
    Apr 3, 2013
    A romance, a thriller, and a science-fiction drama, Upstream Color tantalizes viewers with an open-ended narrative about overcoming personal loss.
  11. Reviewed by: Calum Marsh
    Mar 19, 2013
    Upstream Color is lush, rhythmic, and deeply sensual, a film of exceptional beauty.
  12. Reviewed by: William Goss
    Feb 26, 2013
    As willfully oblique as his first film was densely foreboding, a rumination on the perils and pleasures of interpersonal connection that would seem to refuse any easy connection with even the most curious of audiences.
  13. Reviewed by: Peter Bradshaw
    Sep 2, 2013
    It is invigoratingly freaky and strange, with a Death-Valley-dry sense of humour somewhere underneath — though a little derivative sometimes. More than once, Carruth gives us a close-up on a hand ruminatively stroking a surface: very Malick. And the shots of creepy creatures swarming under the skin are very Cronenberg.
  14. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    Aug 26, 2013
    How to sum up? You have to make synapse-spark connections, interpret events to your own satisfaction, pick up visual cues (a long stretch of the film is dialogue-free) and be happy with not knowing all the answers (you know, like in life — but not in most motion pictures). A perfectly judged, strikingly beautiful film, but also a lunatic enterprise which invites — even welcomes — befuddlement as much as wonder. A true original.
  15. Reviewed by: Matt Glasby
    Aug 24, 2013
    Carruth’s furiously elusive second film skirts the line between nonsense and near-masterpiece, like Terrence Malick filleting "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind."
  16. Reviewed by: David Gritten
    Apr 26, 2013
    Carruth creates a wholly compelling world. And despite my irritation with his deliberate obscurity, my immediate desire when it ended was to stay in my seat and watch it all the way through again.
  17. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Apr 4, 2013
    So Upstream Color is defiantly pitched in its own idiosyncratic key, but it bears the unmistakable influence of Carruth’s fellow Texan Terrence Malick and also of Steven Soderbergh’s early films.
  18. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    Apr 4, 2013
    With its fragmentation and mysteries, Upstream Color offers itself up as a puzzle as well as a philosophical toy that you can spin and spin until the cafe closes and kicks you into the night.
  19. 80
    I’ve seen Upstream Color twice and liked it enormously while never being certain of anything.
  20. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Feb 5, 2013
    Upstream Colors certainly is something to see if you’re into brilliant technique, expressive editing, oblique storytelling, obscuritanist speculative fiction or discovering a significant new actress.
  21. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Feb 5, 2013
    This is a warmer, less foreboding picture than "Primer," not moving in any conventional sense, but suffused with emotion all the same.
  22. 75
    Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color is a deliberate exercise in swooning obscurity. You either go with its considerable sensory powers or you scratch a groove on your head.
  23. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Apr 24, 2013
    Meticulous and abstruse, Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color is an idiosyncratic film that invites explication but defies total understanding.
  24. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Apr 4, 2013
    This enigma-delivery system from a sharp mind has enthralling moments but becomes a bit enervating in its self-seriousness. By the end, the whole thing feels more academic than mind-bending.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 114 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 31
  2. Negative: 11 out of 31
  1. Apr 10, 2013
    The achievements of a filmmaker should not be measured by the amount of headscratching he is able to generate among his viewers, and yet thisThe achievements of a filmmaker should not be measured by the amount of headscratching he is able to generate among his viewers, and yet this seems to be the criterium according to which most critics (with the laudably honest exception of Stephanie Zacharek) are willing to grant Carruth the benefit of the doubt. Upstream Color is, for all its putative ambition, shallowly developed, indiscriminately written, portentously paced, cast ridiculously and acted woefully. You won't spend two more irksome hours in front of a screen, small or large, anytime soon. Full Review »
  2. Apr 16, 2013
    Yes, it's a polarizing film, 4 people walked out 30 mins in, but it's a worthy successor to Carruth's debut, "Primer" and one of the bestYes, it's a polarizing film, 4 people walked out 30 mins in, but it's a worthy successor to Carruth's debut, "Primer" and one of the best films in this early year. This reminds me of "The Tree of Life" in how many reviews bloat a "head-scratching" plot. However, it's really not that difficult. The elliptical editing similar to what Carruth achieved in his first, "Primer" warrants more time to fully understand the plot, but it's by no means, impossible. After first viewing, it's a telling tale of deception and retribution, a complex story of theft while tracking down those involved (however loosely) and creating a life from the wreckage the deceit involved. It's worth the investment and is different from anything from a major studio you'll ever see partially why it's self-distributed (by the director). Writer/director Shane Carruth, because of his stories' complexities and the depth at which his stories take viewers, including his willingness to self-distribute titles makes him one of the most important American directors even with only 2 films under his belt. See this film, so you can watch again to fully understand the plot. Full Review »
  3. Apr 14, 2013
    Sometimes I think the less movie critics understand a movie the higher their ratings will be.
    This movie just proves my point. There is
    Sometimes I think the less movie critics understand a movie the higher their ratings will be.
    This movie just proves my point. There is nothing to understand yet the ratings are through the roof.
    If I had to measure a level of confusion in a movie I would give this movie 10 out of 10 as well. But I do not think getting confused should be the reason why people go to movies. Artsy, maybe. Getting better near the end? Too bad, not everybody will stay that long watching God knows what…
    Full Review »