Director: James Ward Byrkit
Writer: James Ward Byrkit
Cinmetographer: Nic Sadler
by Jon Cvack
With a budget under $50,000 Coherence was shot over five days. Director James Ward Bykrit of Rango fame decided to go in the complete opposite direction of the Hollywood blockbuster and create an intimate story with no script, all shot within a single location. The actors would show up and Bykrit would give them the information they needed to improvise the story. No one knew where it was going or how it ended. It’s not a perfect film, and at times gets a little gimmicky, but as some of the best horror/thriller/scifi films start out - Cloverfield, The Strangers, etc. - we get to learn about the characters before the action begins, allowing us to care about what happened to them.
Outside and beyond is a meteor that’s soaring through the sky, which allegedly brings about strange occurrences. For instance, in the opening scene, Em (Emily Baldoni) is on the phone with her husband Kevin (Maury Sterling) when her phone screen mysteriously cracks, later occurring to some of the other friends as well. Everyone else soon arrives at the house, and the dinner begins, as Em recounts the story about all the strange phenomena that occurred a century prior when the comet was passing. It all sets up the perfect eerie tone as the suspense builds, and we wait for the first moment to happen.
Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) phone screen then cracks. He says that his astrophysicist brother urged him to call if anything strange started to occur. Just as he’s about to contact him the lights go off and thus begins the descent into madness. All of the houses in the neighborhood have lost power, except for one a couple blocks down. Hugh and Amir (Alex Manugian) decide to head over in order to allow Hugh to call his brother. When they return they reveal that the house is the same exact house they're in, with the same eight of them inside, sharing the same conversation. They bring back a strange lockbox that contains all of their photographs with numbers on the back. I was squirming with excitement at this point. It was all so simple and yet worked so well. It was engaging and exciting and you had no idea where it was going to go.
Of course, with Primer in the back of my head, I had a suspicion that it was only going to get more and more confusing as multiple versions of the same individuals enter and exit the house at a rapid pace, leaving everyone confused as to which friend is the real version of their friend. However, one obvious fix that I’m surprised is never thought about (or perhaps was avoided since it could have cured a lot of issues) is why the characters don’t just mark each other with some type of symbol or number. If they’re so paranoid about who’s who, why wouldn’t they just draw a star or something on all the ‘originals' - and in a discreet place - so if anyone were to leave and come back it’d be the first thing they could check out to confirm it’s the right person? Of course, this would have pushed the chaos in a whole other direction, but I always get mildly bothered when I think of a very obvious resolution halfway through the movie, which none of the other characters even consider for reasons obvious to serving the plot.
Nevertheless, this movie is exploring some very interesting ideas, best demonstrated during the closing sequence. Discussing a facile version Schrodinger's Cat Paradox, and the fact that multiple realities can occur simultaneously, we see that there are countless versions of this exact night going on, varying from complete madness and struggle, to calmness and amiability. Thus, when Em chooses to try and integrate herself into the latter category, there’s a question as to whether or not it’s even possible if you were meant for a different trajectory. It’s a movie you have to watch more than once to fully grasp of all the nuances, and given that Bykrit spent over a year developing the story, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that it all made sense in the end. Or perhaps that’s just a possible version of the film’s reality.
BELOW: If this doesn't pique your sci-fi interest, not sure what could
Thoughts on films, old and new
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