Scene Description Spotlight: “Up”

  • “It’s the same house where they met as kids.” In this sequence, the fact they move into the familiar “dilapidated house”is a payoff to the earlier set-up. But the house continues to be an enormously important narrative element — the cause of the dispute between the greedy commercial developer, the means of transportation to South America, and on an emotional level, representing to Carl his beloved wife Ellie (Carl even looks up from time to time and addresses the house as “Ellie”). Of course, the ultimate payoff is in the denouement, the very last image of the movie, where the clouds part and we see the house has magically found its way to the very spot Ellie fantasized about — atop Paradise Falls.
  • “They push two chairs into place side by side in the living room.” The chairs take on symbolic heft, too — there’s Carl’s chair and Ellie’s chair. Indeed, once Carl has managed to get the house to the top of Paradise Falls, one of the first things he does is reposition the chairs as they have always been. And in a fun bit of business, when Carl decides to go save Russell and Kevin, and tosses all the furniture out of the house so it can fly again, as the house soars away, there is a shot: Of the two chairs, side by side, atop Paradise Falls, a nifty and final payoff to their set-up.
  • “Ellie finishes painting “Carl & Ellie” on their MAILBOX.” This is a set-up for a pivotal moment in the movie — where a construction truck backs into the mailbox, a worker attempts to help straighten it, but Carl strikes the man on the forehead, leading to Carl appearing in court, then being forced to leave home and live in a retirement village. That, of course, leads to Carl’s decision to fly the house to South America.
  • “Their house now matches Ellie’s colorful CLUB HOUSE DRAWING from her childhood Adventure Book.” A payoff to an earlier set-up.
  • “They run up a hillside together.” A set-up to a later scene in the sequence when Ellie “falters and falls,” signifying her transition toward death.
  • “They lie side by side on a picnic blanket. She describes the clouds. He watches as a cloud transforms into a turtle.” A set-up to a later scene in the sequence where they see the baby shapes in the clouds.
  • “Carl shows off his new BALLOON CART and uniform. Behind him the balloons lift his cart off the ground.” The balloon theme has already been set-up with Carl and Ellie as children. This picks up on it and pushes the theme ahead — Carl’s job is selling balloons. And that tiny moment where the balloons “list his car off the ground” presages Carl attaching thousands of helium balloons to his house and taking off for South America.
  • “Carl touches Ellie’s shoulder as the doctor explains. Ellie drops her head in her hands.” A sad payoff to the couple’s dream of having children.
  • “Ellie paints a MURAL of their house atop Paradise Falls over the mantle. Carl organizes a compass, map, binoculars, and native bird figure beneath the painting. It’s their shrine to Adventure.” As a response to Ellie’s despondent mood after learning she can not bear children, Carl ‘resurrects’ the dream of going to Paradise Falls. The mural as well as the various objects in the “shrine to Adventure” come back into play in the story again and again, each symbolic reminders of Carl’s promise to Ellie that he will take her — by extension through the house — to Paradise Falls.
  • “Carl sets a JAR on a table, “PARADISE FALLS” written on it.” The jar is a set-up that gets played out within the context of this sequence through a series of shots — each time the jar was getting filled with coins, something happened that caused the couple to break it, and use the money for something other than a trip to Paradise Falls.
  • “Ellie drops in a few coins. She looks at Carl and crosses her heart. Carl crosses his.” The cross your heart elements has already been set up when they were children, and is called back on numerous occasions throughout the story, Carl remembering his pledge to Ellie.
  • “Carl cleans the inside of the window. Ellie cleans the outside.” This is a set-up to a payoff during the Carl living alone sequence — he cleans the window and stops, no smiling face of his wife to peer back at him, a grace note that drives home his state of solitude.
  • ”A SERIES OF SHOTS as Ellie straightens Carl’s ties. Stylish 1950’s ties. Wide 60’s ties. Paisley 70’s ties.” This is not only a great way to show the passage of time, but also serves as a set-up for a touching moment toward the end of the sequence, the last gesture Ellie makes to Carl before she dies — “She weakly pats his cheek and adjusts his tie.
  • “Carl walks into the house, holding a single blue balloon.” And so the story comes full circle, Carl as a boy with a blue balloon, part of the narrative of how he first met Ellie. And now accompanying him as he has said good-bye. But of course, this is not a farewell to balloons, is it?

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