10 Complex Movies You Really Weren't Prepared For

9. Upstream Color

Nocturnal Animals

Those familiar with Shane Carruth's mind-blowingly dense and confusing work of sci-fi cinema, Primer, might have known to expect the unexpected when they sat down to this. For anyone else, though, Upstream Color - with its plot that outright defies any real explanation - must have felt like an impenetrable nightmare.

In its most basic form, then, the "story" driving Upstream Color concerns the exploits of a man who forces a woman to eat a strange organism, leaving her open to exploitation and mind suggestion. She wakes up, her life gone, and - as she meets a strange man - we begin to realise that we're watching a group of humans who are somehow connected via the life cycle of this complex parasite. Probably.

All that, of course, does nothing to outline the film, a highly experimental work in nature, what with its Terrence Malick-like visuals, and structureless structure.

Anyone who went into this thinking they'd be able to figure it out in a single sitting would have been sorely mistaken. In many ways, Upstream Color is more labyrinthian than Primer and that, reader, is really saying something.


Sam Hill is an ardent cinephile and has been writing about film professionally since 2008. He harbours a particular fondness for western and sci-fi movies.