Quick Critique: Upstate Story (Request)

There’s something to be said about the liberty filmmaking can give you in the present day if you’re resourceful enough. Thanks to film-level quality technology being affordable and the advent of the internet, shooting, platforming and distributing a passion project has never been easier. Definitely is the case for YouTube, which will gladly present your work long as it doesn’t get flagged. One of these films, free for you to watch now on the popular broadcaster, is the one I shall be speaking about today.

Upstate Story is an independently made film released last year by filmmaker Shaun Rose. It tells the story of Ellis Martin, a cleaner stuck in a rut who glides through his weeks to make it to the weekends. We witness one such week, told rather despondently and darkly humorously by Ellis. While sometimes our narrator’s matter-of-fact tone will not fit exactly every moment he describes, I do like how it sets a sense of repetition to Ellis’ life. Not much about his week gives him a lot of joy, and yet he struggles through it. It’s a rather stark depiction of a depressed mind just weaving through its own life, without it feeling to remorseless or bleak.

The flashbacks are a lot of fun, and they’re brief enough not to drag the film down pacing wise (which, in fairness, it’s only an hour long, so that’s never too serious an issue). A really nice effect is that these scenes are sepia coloured while most of the rest of the film is in black and white. This not only signals to the audience when there’s a flashback, but also indicates the character’s mental state. There’s literally more colour in his life when he’s happier, and thinking about his past is seen through as such. There’s an extra spin on this, but I daren’t reveal how so.

This may not be for everyone. It’s more of a slow and contemplative personal piece. I can’t really say how much of his own life and personality Rose put into this, but a lot of it feels to the bone. And that may not be everyone’s thing, and they may not dig the structure or tone. But I definitely think there’s a lot here to gleam. It’s funny but thoughtful, really putting you into the mind of our protagonist. No matter what your personal circumstances or mental state, I think everyone at a certain age can appreciate being stuck in a rut. Also complementing it is a great score which is appropriately used, melodic but emotional, fitting the tone of the film perfectly.

Upstate Story is available on YouTube. I’d pretty much recommend it if you have the time to spare. Also check out their Facebook page for more details and updates on the film. I wish Rose well in his future, as well as every filmmaker taking to the no-budget independent road to fulfil their passions.

7/10

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