Up There

Up There


Reviewed by: Lindis Kipp

What if the fate of your afterlife is not decided based on what you did while you were alive, but how you deal with your demise? Zam Salim's feature film debut Up There sets out to answer this question and does so with wit and simplicity.

Martin (Burn Gorman) works as a carer since he was run over by a car, welcoming new arrivals into the terribly bureaucratic and beige afterlife. When his partner Ali is assessed and found worthy to go “up there”, Martin is stuck with chipper young fellow running-over-victim Rash. The two promptly lose the first arrival they are supposed to pick up together and need to retrieve the boy if Martin is to ever get a chance to go up there. Their journey takes them to a sleepy coastal Scottish town, where they find a little more than they came looking for.

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Salim's vision of the afterlife is a bleak niggle of therapy sessions and filling in forms; any free time the deceased have is made more complicated by the fact they cannot move any physical objects in the real world. This opens up a few wonderful scenes, including dead people standing behind the living in the library, reading books over their shoulders, and long conversations between the dead as they stand in front of doors, waiting for someone living to come through.

While Up There is jam-packed with dry Scottish humour and absurd situations brought on by the dead's physical handicap, the film never fails to engage with its audience on a more philosophical level. Up There is really about finding one's purpose, if need be, after life. Martin thinks he only has to stay focused and positive to be allowed up there, but in truth he has to learn to be selfless. His excursion to sleepy Newport and the unlikely, slightly irritating friends he makes along the way show him the beginnings of this. It is however not until he has seemingly reached his goal and is on his way up there that Martin becomes truly selfless. Salim leaves it open as to whether Martin ultimately gets up there, but his willingness to give up what he wanted the most for his new friends is what really gets Martin out of his rut.

Salim mentioned in a Q&A after the screening I saw that he wanted to make the film feel ordinary. It might sound simple, but it takes rare talent to take the mundane and make it both spellbinding and profound. Salim has accomplished this and it can only be hoped that Up There receives the wide distribution it richly deserves.

Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2012
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A dead man stuck in a dead end job welcoming new arrivals to the afterlife fears things will get even worse when he accidentally loses a soul.

Director: Zam Salim

Writer: Zam Salim

Starring: Burn Gorman, Jo Hartley, Warren Brown, Iain De Caestecker

Year: 2011

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: UK


Glasgow 2012

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