Director: Juan Solanas | 108 minutes | drama, fantasy, romance, science fiction | Actors: Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall, Blu Mankuma, Vlasta Vrana, Kate Trotter, Vincent Messina, Frank M. Ahearn, Nicholas Rose, Richard Zeman, Holly O’Brien, Janine Theriault, John Maclaren, Elliott Larson, Maurane Arcand , Paul Ahmarani, Jesse Sherman, Frances B. Goldberg
Long-distance relationships have their downside, but in ‘Upside Down’ the Argentinian filmmaker Juan Solanas goes one step further. Lovers Adam (Jim Sturgess) and Eden (Kirsten Dunst) don’t just live half a day away from each other: they are each on a different planet! In the alternate universe where ‘Upside Down’ takes place, Down Below and Up Top are two planets that are located directly above each other in the universe, but where mutual ties are extremely punishable. Not only that, it is also not even possible as a resident of one planet to visit another, because of the “reverse gravity”. In the beginning of the film it is further explained how this works, but it is fair to say that it is certainly not scientifically substantiated. You can question the internal logic of ‘Upside Down’ quite a bit. You have to take it from Solanas that it is, in order to enjoy the movie the most.
As a child, Adam, who lives in the poor ‘Down Below’, and Eden, who comes from the rich and powerful Up Top, meet each other at a meeting that is so coincidental that it cannot be anything but destiny. It’s not just that one time, but they more or less grow up together, and eventually fall in love. When Adam finally manages to bring Eden to his planet (their meeting place consists of two mountain peaks that almost touch each other), things go wrong. Chased by law enforcement officers, Eden is forced to return to her own hideaway, but the last leg of the journey involves a little more force than planned, and she falls to pieces. Adam is convinced that Eden is dead and continues – with the necessary psychological scars – his life. Ten years later he is an adult, he is working as a scientist on an anti-aging cream and is shocked when he suddenly sees Eden on television. She lives! From that moment on, Adam is determined to get her back into his life. But this requires more than circumventing physical laws.
‘Upside Down’ is a picture. Although it becomes abundantly clear that you are looking at a green screen, the visual design of the two planets is breathtaking. The use of color filters has been perfected down to the last detail and that gives the film exactly that atmosphere to believe that what you see is all possible. The idea underlying the film is very refreshing and it is therefore regrettable that there is something wrong with the performance. Not only with regard to the scientific side of the story, the development of the – forbidden – relationship between Adam and Eden is also going in fits and starts. Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst are both very capable, and play sympathetic roles, which you as a viewer have to love, but thanks to the not so well-developed scenario, their love on the screen grows faster than the audience expects it. Just like the explanation of gravity and its complications, the viewer is actually supposed to just assume that they are crazy about each other. In addition, Eden in particular remains a one-dimensional character. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the story is told from Adam’s point of view (Sturgess even does a somewhat melodramatic voice-over in the intro). However, the cast-iron supporting role of Timothy Spall is not to be sneezed at. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the story is told from Adam’s point of view (Sturgess even does a somewhat melodramatic voice-over in the intro). However, the cast-iron supporting role of Timothy Spall is not to be sneezed at. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the story is told from Adam’s point of view (Sturgess even does a somewhat melodramatic voice-over in the intro). However, the cast-iron supporting role of Timothy Spall is not to be sneezed at.
Despite the criticisms, ‘Upside Down’ is a film that never gets boring. The original premise, the impressive design of the universe, and the ‘do they come together or not’ part of the film is just enough to keep you captivated for the entire running time and to be forgiving of the filmmaker’s mistakes. ‘Upside Down’ is a film for the romantics among science fiction lovers and will undoubtedly achieve cult status in the foreseeable future.