The 100 Best Movies Streaming on Netflix Right Now

Upstream Color (2013)

Director: Shane Carruth
Stars: Shane Carruth, Amy Seimetz, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins

Upstream Color—writer-director Shane Carruth's long-awaited follow-up to his bewildering 2004 time-travel knockout Primer—is a textbook example of a movie that's best seen with little to no prior knowledge of its plot machinations. We'll restrict the explanation to this: Two morose strangers (Amy Seimetz and Carruth) meet on a train, slowly begin seeing each other, and have no idea that they share a common past experience that neither one of them truly understands. Somewhere not all that far from their city, meanwhile, resides an eccentric farmer with a giant pen full of pigs.

How all of those pieces connect is what Carruth challenges audience members to formulate for themselves—the necessary details are there, but laid out in such a way that posits Upstream Color as a slightly less menacing relative of Mulholland Drive. Carruth is working on several artistic levels here. The film's core is the whirlwind romance, but, true to his idiosyncratic form, Carruth surrounds that beating heart with other particular influences, including body horror, bleak drama, and (bizarre) biology. Which, on the whole, could leave viewers cold if not for his ability to capture moments of sublime beauty.

Even at its most impenetrable, Upstream Color is a superb technical achievement.

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