The Sci-Fi Drama From Hit Debut Director Doesn’t Deserve To Be Forgotten

By Douglas Helm | Published

Shane Carruth is arguably one of the most underrated directors of the 2000s and 2010. While his debut feature, Primer, is a cult classic that is lauded by those who know it, his second film, Upstream Color, is perhaps even more underseen. Unfortunately, the film isn’t available for streaming, so you’ll need to rent it if you want to check it out.

The Second Film From Shane Carruth

Upstream Color follows two people infected by a strange parasite that affects them throughout their lives. It’s hard to go into too much more detail than that, as the film is worth going in as unspoiled as possible. Also, it’s not the easiest plot to describe, and it’s best to experience finding things out for yourself.

Shane Carruth once again took a true indie approach to Upstream Color, as he starred in, directed, wrote, and produced the film as he did with his debut Primer. Though, he did have a bit bigger of a budget this time around. Along with Carruth, the film also stars Amy Seimetx, Andrew Sensenig, and Thiago Martins.

Another Experimental Sci-Fi Film

As mentioned, before making Upstream Color, Carruth made his film debut with the experimental and low-budget time travel film Primer. Primer is one of the most grounded and interesting time travel movies out there. While Upstream Color may not be as groundbreaking as Primer, it’s still well worth checking out and will have you thinking about it long after the movie is over. 

A Hit With The Critics

Upstream Color debuted at the Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim in 2013 before being released theatrically a few months later. Of course, Carruth also self-distributed the film. Upon its release, it received nearly universal praise. The Los Angeles Times even pointed out that the movie trended higher on Twitter than the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered.

Potentially The Last Shane Carruth Film

Upstream Color was the last film that Shane Carruth released, and it’s unclear if we’ll ever get a movie from the indie auteur again. In 2009, Carruth was reportedly working on a movie called A Topiary. The film was supposedly a sci-fi about a group of kids who build a large, animal-like creature.

However, Carruth eventually abandoned the project and made Upstream Color instead. While it’s great that we got Upstream Color, many were hoping that Carruth would return back to A Topiary. Then, in 2014, it was reported that Carruth was working on a new film titled The Modern Ocean about international shipping.

Planned Star-Studded Film Fell Apart

The Modern Ocean seemed like it would be more than a worthy follow-up to Primer and Upstream Color and also had a star-studded cast attached that included Jeff Goldblum, Anne Hathaway, Keanu Reeves, Tom Holland, Daniel Radcliffe, Chloe Grace Moretz, Asa Butterfield, and Abraham Attah. Irrfan Khan was also cast as the lead captain in the film before passing away in April 2020.

Years Since The Last Update

Carruth would later post the entire script for The Modern Ocean on Twitter in June 2020. The year before, Carruth said he was working on a massive project and that he would leave the film industry after that project was completed. There hasn’t been any word on that project since, but you can try to rent Upstream Color in the meantime if you want to check out one of the only films we might get from him.