Warning! This entire discussion contains spoilers for Upstream Color.



Scott Hardie | July 7, 2013
"If you could choose any one superpower, what would it be?" Various friends of mine have answered that question with flight or invisibilty or telekinesis, but I'm often tempted to choose mind control: Whatever I would tell a person to do, they would instantly and unquestionably obey. I could do whatever I wanted with them, and tell them to forget the experience afterwards. That's a fun moral dilemma to consider (would I be good and compel world leaders to make peace? or would I be evil and indulge in hedonism?), but invariably, that hypothetical is all about me. What about the victim of my power? What lasting effects would it have on them to have been taken over temporarily and have their lives uprooted for someone else's enjoyment? What if I chose to retain a psychic connection to them, and this caused further disruption to their psyche? These are some of the questions asked by Upstream Color, in which nearly every character is a victim or a victimizer (or both) of this specific kind of telepathy, all made possible by a parasitic worm and some unexplained sci-fi whatever/who-cares.

The plot, in my opinion, is not as hard to explain as some critics make it out to be. I had no trouble following what was happening and why at any given point. That said, the movie doesn't ever make its characters spell things out for the audience like a more conventional film would, and it is much more interested in mood and character, as portrayed through the sad, desperate looks in people's eyes and the way they touch each other, than it is in the overall plot. This movie is bound to frustrate some viewers.

Some parts I didn't understand:
- What objects was Kris picking up from the bottom of the pool?
- Was Jeff's divorce and/or professional crisis supposed to be connected to his being violated?
- Isn't the whole dead-piglet/float-downstream/dissolve/bloom-orchid/cultivated-by-florist/found-by-picky-customer thing a little risky? If that's how the farmer kept the cycle going to produce more victims, it seems like something he wouldn't leave so very much to chance.
- If the movie is named for the orchids, shouldn't the title technically be Downstream Color?
- Why didn't they name the farm Walden at the end? C'mon, that would have been perfect.

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