Upside Down

Some sci-fi fantasy films have a premise so clean and simple, they must cause writer-directors competing in the same genre to vaporize in a huff of envy.

Earlier in 2004, it was as easy as a couple unraveling the mistake of erasing painful memories in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Now, two lovers romance the physics of dual gravity.

In this outrageous universe created by Juan Diego Solanas; laws of gravity still apply, except two surfaces run parallel to each other. The affluent rich are flipped and live on the “up side” while decrepit poor live on the “down side” — society (like nature) dictates neither are allowed to mingle nor marry.

The story follows a poor orphan Adam; who falls for a charming girl from the upper crust, Eden. An accident in the mountains separates the teenagers and they part when law enforcement closes in. Eden loses memory from brain concussion and the years have thundered on before they meet again.

Jim Sturgess (who played Ewing in Cloud Atlas) is Adam Kirk; young cosmetic scientist on the verge of a breakthrough using his Aunt’s secret ingredient — magic pink bees! Big corporation TransWorld, wanting to benefit commercially from this miracle anti-aging cream recruits him reluctantly. As for Adam; seeing the chance to honor his family name and traverse Eden’s (Kirsten Dunst) world legitimately, accepts their job offer.

A stint attempting to reconcile with Eden (who no longer remembers him) works, but the law of nature opposes courtship. In classic Cinderella crisis, Adam has a one-hour limit before heat and friction angles him back down. He constantly fights to outsmart the natural forces of reality — at one point, bored and friendly co-worker Bob (Timothy Spall) steps in to help.

Upside Down Upside Down is a highly stylized film about passion and romance — suffused with visual allegories surrounding movement, transformation and stasis. From downlow to the upturn, poor orphan to prince charming, separation to unity. We see how elements that control natural and artificial territories aptly fit, compelling the story to its narrative end.

The resolution this film reveals; and its characterization of a hopeless romantic and his manic pixie dream girl may be too generic for some; yet I find it likable,  original and entertaining. Solanas applies vastness of space and symmetrical beauty in a creative way; using them as symbolic extensions of the story’s themes.

Criticisms that generalize and compare it to Inception are baffling. Both films explore similar material using entirely different strategies: one implores a labyrinth of logic while the other blatantly defies it. Upside Down works because it moves within the paradigm of fantasy without being too uptight about anything — pretty hip stuff for a Valentine’s Day flick.

Love junkies only — those in search of intellectual orgasms need not apply.

★★★★★

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