A Different Kind of Love: Upstream Color (2013)
It took director Shane Carruth nine years to make his follow-up feature to Primer - widely lauded as one of the most intriguing and unique science fiction films of the 2000s. But when he did in 2013 with Upstream Color, luckily it didn't require the aid of a diagram to follow along.
Upstream Color is a difficult film to easily describe, as its editing style and plot are equally as discordant. It combines story elements such as pigs, body parasites and Henry David Thoreau's Walden, linked together in a means which only makes sense once you've seen the whole thing. But at its core, its about two broken individuals, attempting to move on from a supernatural event which changes the entire nature of their lives and everything they know.
We first meet Kris (Amy Seimetz), a woman who is drugged and hypnotized by a mysterious individual into giving away all of her savings, which leads to her losing her job and redirecting the course of her life. A year later, Kris encounters Jeff (Carruth) on a train, seemingly motivated to talk to him from a near-clairvoyant connection. They form a bond and soon fall in love, but eventually as they get to know each other it is revealed that their kinship goes beyond physical attraction, as it is motivated by forces beyond their comprehension due to the brainwashing incidents they have both been subject to. Kris and Jeff attempt to find a way to escape this intangible system of control, where their actions are connected to the life of another organism entirely, with only each other for guidance and support.
It's certainly not your typical definition of romance, but what Kris and Jeff experience is motivated by the same feelings that guide our own emotional perceptions, when we meet someone we are attracted to without understanding why or how to even verbally express it. It's all about the moments you face, who you face them with, and moving from being to strangers into a new (id)entity as a couple. A mutual kind of disorder where you take the flaws of your better half and do all you can to help in every way you can. Its love of a very abstract kind, and one that's more cerebral than we're used to seeing in cinema.
More than one viewing is required to get beyond the incongruous storytelling and to root oneself what Carruth is conveying in the premise, but Upstream Color is equally as groundbreaking as the filmmaker's feature debut, and certainly more affecting, emotionally and intellectually. Achieving so much through its euphoric imagery alone, its narrative of love against the odds is certainly an inspired choice for something to watch this Valentine's Day.