Forbidden Love flipped on its head

Suspend your disbelief and you just might enjoy Upside Down

At the beginning of Juan Diego Solanas’ sci-fi love story Upside Down actor Jim Sturgess asks in a very breathy faux American accent if love can be stronger than gravity. The more pertinent question this gorgeous but uneven movie should be asking is whether cinematography can (or should) be stronger than script.

Upside Down takes place in an alternate reality where there are opposing forces of gravity. Basically there are two planets that are butted up almost against each other each with their own gravitational pull. Anyone from one world would essentially be upside down on the other. One world (Up There) is modern and affluent much like modern-day Earth. The other (Down Below) looks like it’s straight out of a particularly dark Dickens novel with the addition of ’70s model cars. The folks from the two worlds are forbidden to interact unless they are working for TransWorld an oil company that sucks resources from Down Below for the people Up There.

As convoluted as it sounds all of this actually makes sense in the world of the movie and is made possible by some striking film trickery and special effects. Upside Down ’s problems don’t lie in the overly complicated premise but in its underdeveloped plot. Adam (Jim Sturgess) is an orphan from Down Below who happens upon Eden (Kirsten Dunst) when hiking in the mountains which are high enough in both worlds that they almost touch. The two fall in love and continue to visit each other until they are interrupted by the authorities. Eden falls and hits her head and conveniently develops amnesia.

Fast forward 10 years and Adam is working as a scientist Down Below developing a gravity-neutral beauty cream that miraculously lifts out wrinkles. He learns that Eden is working as a publicist at TransWorld so he offers to develop the cream on the company’s behalf so that he can contact her. Romance ensues the authorities react and the movie goes back and forth between a romantic drama and action sci-fi.

Without a doubt Upside Down is beautiful to look at. Solanas has aptly created a world that is easy to become immersed in which is the biggest challenge in filming this kind of story. Yet he all but ignores the details of the story and to some extent the acting. While Sturgess is charming and undeniably adorable he comes off more like a loyal puppy than a smouldering leading man. By the time he gets to his job at TransWorld to develop the ridiculous beauty cream it’s as if Solanas has stopped caring about continuity or logic and doesn’t pay any attention to the rules of the world he’s created.

As a viewer the visuals are lush enough that you can suspend disbelief and ignore the odd inconsistency. If you can hold onto that dreamy feel Upside Down is definitely worth seeing. But if your own cynicism breaks the spell you’ll be left with a pretty looking film with very little substance.