Written and directed by lead actor Shaun Rose, co-written by Bruce Rose Sr. and Andrea Stangle, Ellis Martin (Rose) works for a cleaning service and continues to seek new employment, but to no avail. He yearns for the innocence and ease of his past, while also anticipating his weekends, however, getting to this point is no easy task. Also starring: Kendra Mosher, Adrianna Rose and Keenan Rose.
More often than not, films surrounding mental health issues take a rather flashy route, whether it be through comedy, romance or even thriller, but Upstate Story cuts through all the glamour for an entirely grounded take on depression. It uses an extremely minimalist style, almost feeling like a 1990’s home video aesthetic, and only includes a small amount of dialogue. However, it feels as though those choices likely won’t work for some viewers. Using narration as the vehicle to explore Ellis’ emotions proves self-serving, a big portion of that writing is in the form of ranting or venting. It’s not really exploring the larger emotion but presenting a fairly typical, slightly misogynistic male character, who believes he got an unfair lot in life.
The material is there to talk about mental health and how its impacted by your children, daily routine, dead-end job and rejection. Unfortunately, for the most part it just doesn’t come together; it takes too long to reveal the bigger backstory to Ellis and doesn’t use its time effectively. The ratio of time spent on different aspects of the story feels unbalanced, falling into a repetitive pattern, which serves a purpose in exploring monotony but isn’t entirely necessary. The result being it feels like the same thing could have been achieved in a lot less time, making it less impactful on the whole.
Shaun Rose’s performance matches the understated, everyday style of his direction. It interestingly feels as though it has more to say about depression through its physicality, than through the narration. While his voice work may be quite aggressive and leans a lot on Ellis feeling sorry for himself, the portrayal more keenly portrays the plight of a downtrodden and struggling man. The voice performance also needed a bit more character, it’s quite one-noted and misses out on providing more personality or individuality.
Upstate Story attempts to explore mental health with a direct look into the mind of a struggling man. It plays out with a minimalist style which works but only to a certain point, as it starts to feel repetitive. The story takes a long time to get going, not really giving you the bigger picture until its final scenes. It has great intentions but the way that it progresses makes it feel like it could have been achieved in a smaller timeframe, and doesn’t use the entire runtime to its advantage. The focus goes too far inward and unfortunately loses the deeper emotional potential, in favour of daily grievances.