Elliptical, but not incomplete, temperate, but not monotonous, ‘Upstream’ is the result of a special artistic sensibility that depicts with candour a tender and authentic existential piece. Adriana Martins da Silva offers us a short film like a cinematic page of a diary, in which the (auto?)biographical details intertwine with pulsating contemplative moments. The apparent simplicity of this project is its outstanding quality. More precisely, the director does not want to give us a concrete, well-established storyline but rather to let herself be carried away by her own emotion, even taking the risk of not giving answers to all the questions we may ask. In a way, the creator is convinced that the sincerity with which she plunges into her confession is enough to contaminate the viewer with emotion. And she does succeed. The viewer, therefore, accepts this stylistic pact and totally embraces this poetical unfolding of images and sounds that connect the souls of the two main characters, without seeking at all costs an explanation for the state of affairs. What is the background of the characters, and what is the story of their friendship? – it’s hard to say. But at the same time, the lack of this information does not compromise the project’s impact, for which the sensations are more important than the concrete details.
Leaving the past behind, spiritual pursuit, friendship and family become the central themes on which the human relationship between Mariana, a Portuguese, and Tui, a Maori, is based. Each of the two has its own secrets, has its own way of keeping quiet or expressing deep moods, but the connection between them tends to go beyond the barriers of conventional verbal communication. The director delicately portrays the impasse faced by the main character on the border between two worlds: the past marked by disappointments and the future under the sign of motherhood and the chance of a new beginning.
The suggestiveness of this healing odyssey is supported at the cinematic level by the almost mythical beauty of a paradisiacal nature where the human spirit unconsciously seeks a connection with the cosmic energies. The cultural mix captured by the two protagonists highlights not only the difference in the mentality of the two women but also the complementarity of two seemingly incompatible cultures. But this incompatibility is not strident or conflicting; on the contrary, Adriana Martins da Silva evokes a kind of return to the origins, a rediscovery of a total balance in which any forms of geographical or perceptive borders are removed. A poetic sensory combination between the vibrant domestic atmosphere of Susanna Bier’s first movies and the aesthetics of Ken Loach, ‘Upstream’ is the short film of a director who may not tell us her story to the end but certainly captivates us with her sensitivity and professionalism.
For the gracefulness and sincerity with which it expresses the spiritual crisis of the one who leaves the past behind and for its poetically beautiful style, ‘Upstream’ was awarded with the 2nd Film of the Month distinction in the November 2021 edition of TMFF.