Upside Down – film review

Promotional poster for the film "Upside Down".
Promotional poster for the film “Upside Down”.
I truly enjoyed Upside Down recently on Netflix. It was just the sort of offbeat SF movie I was looking for. Written and produced by Juan Diego Solanas and starring Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst, Upside Down is about a binary world system where both planets are in geosynchronous orbit around their sun—so close that they share the same atmosphere—but with polarized gravities.

There is an up world and a down world, with the rich and elite dictating their world is “up”. Contact between the two peoples is forbidden and enforced with imprisonment. This rule provides one of the most visually interesting aspects of the movie. Even employees of TransWorld are forbidden to fraternize, so employees are segregated by cubicles on the ceiling and the floor. They conduct business by looking up at each other while talking and by passing items to each other with sticks. Later in the movie, there is one scene in particular where dancers on up world dance on a chandeliered, baroque-styled “ceiling”; that is quite inventive. For the up worlders they are dancing on a painted floor with an elaborate lamp in the center of the room. The movie is filled with many breathtaking scenes where up and down collide in visually stunning ways.

Materials from one world will defy gravity on the opposite world, and when in contact for a long time these materials will become volatile. This makes them perfect as a fuel source, but they are carefully allocated to the masses—unless these materials are clothes, rare stamps, building structures that transverse both worlds, and people. These items inexplicably defy the rules, so I assumed after a while that only metals carefully controlled by mega corporation TransWorld had these magical properties. In this regard Upside Down is actually a fantasy with a science fiction setting.

Questionable science aside, this story is really about Adam and Eden’s forbidden love. They met on mountain tops in their childhood, had a brief romance as teenagers, but after being discovered, Adam let Eden drop slowly up to her world by rope before being shot and dropping her from a great height. There, Eden lay motionless in a pool of blood. Years later Adam sees Eden on television, so he finally knows she is alive. He makes plans to work for TransWorld to meet Eden by selling his antigravity, anti aging cream. What a shame Eden has amnesia.

It is my opinion that without the plot construct of rampant amnesia, there might very well be no genre fiction ever written. In the past month I have encountered two Korean dramas, an anime, two manga, and several (!) North American SF television shows where amnesia formed the core of the show from episode to episode. Here, again, amnesia is the obstacle the main character must overcome to reunite the gravity crossed lovers.

It is a tribute to the actors’ abilities that they infused what is a romcom trope with refreshing life. The weight suit that Adam devises in order to date Eden is entertainingly comical, and his efforts to avoid detection give the climax of the movie some much needed tension. As a romcom I would be tempted to give Upside Down three stars, but with the imaginative setting, top notch computer graphics, and charming performances by the main actors, I feel comfortable giving this movie a four star rating.

Editor’s Note: Occasionally, we will offer more than one opinion on a work. This is one of those cases. Head on over and read our previous review of Upside Down. We hope you enjoy both reviews!

Release Date: August 31, 2012 (Canada)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

MySF Rating: Four point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 75%


Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (social drinking and smoking)
Language: 1 (deity)
Nudity: 0
Sexuality: 2 (there is smooching, and sex is implied—after all, a baby is made somehow…)
Violence: 3 (guns are fired, there is a pool of blood, somebody dies, but none of it is done in an overhanded way)

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