What Goes Up
Set in the mid-80's when a reporter is sent to cover the Challenger Space Shuttle launch only to become mixed up in the lives of some local students.
It is 1986. An emotionally damaged New York reporter is sent to cover the hometown hoopla for a local hero. But rather than pursue his assignment, which leaves him cold, he follows a group of disaffected students, whose own hero - their beloved, unconventional teacher has just died under a cloud of scandal. Their passionate and, at times, ludicrous expressions of grief attract the reporter. He moves into their alternate universe, a willing "substitute teacher", but descends into a web of lies and misplaced sexual desire with this group of confused and combustible youths who attempt to cast him as their new hero and teacher.
What Goes Up is about heroism. The story asks the questions: Who are our heroes and why? How much of heroism is myth and how much real? And how do we fill the holes left behind when someone meaningful dies unexpectedly?
It is January 1986 : one week before the space shuttle Challenger was launched. And it is this legendary event that hovers over - and informs - the story at hand.
Enter Campbell Babbitt, a New York reporter, reeling from the suicide of a woman who was the subject of an article he wrote - a woman with whom he also fell in love. Against all journalistic ethics, he kept her death a secret from his editor and the public who responded so strongly to her heroic story. Moreover, after she died, he continued to write about her as though she were still out there doing heroic deeds. His editor thinks he is obsessing. It's time to move on to other stories. She exiles him to New Hampshire, to cover Christa McAuliffe's (teacher/ and soon to be first civilian in space) pre-launch hometown hoopla. But rather than pursue his assignment, which leaves him cold, he follows a group of kids who are also suffering a loss of their own: it seems their teacher, Mr. C. (Sam) has killed himself.
Everything about Mr. C. is a bit mysterious, especially the Svengali-like effect he had on his students. (One of his students, Lucy, acts the part of the widow and rumor has it she and Sam had an affair - perhaps the spark for Sam's untimely death...) Campbell is beguiled by the rawness of the kids' grief - and the often outrageous actions they take in expressing their loss (building shrines, stealing Mr. C.'s coffin…). He decides to write an article about them and - in this town dominated by celebrations of Christa's heroism - compose a portrait of a different kind of hero. In the process, however, Campbell descends into a netherworld of lies and misplaced sexual desire with this group of combustible youths as they attempt to cast him as their new hero and teacher.
The central characters in What Goes Up have all suffered a personal loss, and so we find them in the most frenetic, volatile week of their lives. Everything is out of joint, and those involved permit themselves to act recklessly out of emotional need – often to ludicrous ends.
00 hr : 104 min : 00 sec
Date of Completion
20 January 2009
Country of Production
U S A
Country of Filming
Langley, British Columbia, Canada
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada