when worlds ought to collide

The world on a tilt.

The world on a tilt.

There’s a lot to the story of Upside Down that needs to be explained and explored. It was visually arresting, a mite sentimental, and all too brief. The ending was rushed, the climax all but lost.

Yet I enjoyed this movie because of the premise alone: twinned worlds alienated from each other, star-crossed lovers reaching across the divide…

…and because the director was very good at presenting different perspectives on the same object (I swear I kept looking at that chandelier from several angles).

So, I wrote the review below to give it a chance. If ever you do watch this movie, do it with an open mind.

The beauty of sci-fi is in the exploration of “what if.” It’s all in the imagining, not the conclusion.


BusinessWorld Weekender
Movie Review
Upside Down
Written and directed by Juan Diego Solanas

Defying Gravity

Everything in the universe conspires to keep apart lovers Adam and Eden (yes, Eden, as in paradise, not Eve, as in the greatest temptation known to Adam, although the pull is there, if you know what I mean). This isn’t your usual star-crossed romance: apart from rigid social class distinctions and a political system that thrives on keeping people firmly in their places, they’ve got to defy freak gravity.

Adam and Eden live in twinned planets with gravities that pull in opposite directions, he on the poverty-stricken Down side, and she on the prosperous and exploitative Up above. Natural law dictates that the weight of objects from opposite worlds offset each other, but any contact between matter and inverse matter results in combustion (which ought to apply to people, but you don’t see the lovers burn up however long and pseudo-heatedly they kiss, the chemistry’s all whacked).

On the surface, the only point of contact the two worlds have is through TransWorld, a company bent on perpetuating the status quo where Up is on top and Down stays low. Down provides cheap fuel and labor, and Up rakes in money by selling overpriced electricity. They’re mirror images of each other, except Down is so much shabbier and its residents steal castoff nuts and bolts to heat their homes, whereas Up purchases novelties such as a blue gel-like upside-down cocktail.

Border police ensure that there is no trespassing – the thuggish minders spot the illicit lovers on the high mountain that brought the two worlds close enough for the couple to “fall” for each other (it’s amazing where a little rope can get you, and how high does the, er, sycamore grow?). They shoot Adam, causing him to drop Eden on her side. It’s only 10 years later that he realizes she’s alive and working for TransWorld; he decides to defy the astronomical odds, gets himself employed in TransWorld by selling them his genius anti-gravity face-lift cream, and by stealth and science (weights that nearly barbecue him), sneak Up to see Eden.

The enterprising Adam gets some help from friends Down below, namely his surrogate father Albert (Blu Mankuma) and his friend Pablo (Nicholas Rose), as well as Upworlder Bob Boruchowicz (Timothy Spall, a far cry from Wormtail of Harry Potter fame), an avid collector of Down stamps whom he befriends, bargains with and later impersonates. All are apprised of Adam’s real purpose at TransWorld – to develop not just the face-lift cream but a formula that would stabilize matter and inverse matter so these they may occupy space either Up and Down. This is his ticket to being with Eden, but whether he develops it in time, before he is discovered, is the question.

You can probably spot the ending to this movie a mile away, but you do find yourself rooting for Adam and Eden to come together, so you suspend disbelief. The very nature of their world pushes the notion that they will be stuck, ever doomed to stare at each other across the vast expanse of sky and inverse sky, but you watch them literally free-falling until they collide with each other, suspended in a bubble of their own making. You watch Adam run –- out of time, Upside –- on burning shoes, jump into one ocean only to get dumped into another, and you go, sure, give the kid a break.

A lot of it is contrived –- the main ingredient to the stabilizing formula is pink bee pollen, from a heritage recipe for flying pancakes that Adam’s Aunt Becky showed him (she gets arrested after the shooting incident by the thuggish police and is never seen or heard of again). The bees apparently ingest matter from both worlds up in that handy-dandy mountain top/ point of contact. Get it? Bees do it – let’s do it – let’s fall in love? Classic.

But the movie is very pretty to look at and does tickle the fancy. And you kind of wish you did have the opportunity and the guts to free-fall from one world to another, and survive to tell the tale.


UPDATE (2013.02.10): Got this via my friend Jo U:

If tumbling head over heels for each other resulted in an HEA despite being pulled in opposite directions…

Their names are Walter and Madge according to the official website. Written and directed by Timothy Reckart.


  1. Hi, thanks for the endorsement. If you’re looking along the lines of sci-fi romance, try Sharon Shinn’s Archangel (Samaria series), and yes, Stephenie Meyer’s The Host. Forget what you think you know about Twilight, this is a whole different ballgame. It wrangled a thumbs up from Orson Scott Card if that helps.

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