Directed by James Ward Byrkit.
Starring Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling and Nicholas Brendon.
Several friends meet for a dinner party on the same night a rare comet is due to pass overhead.
When watching an episode of The Twilight Zone half the fun is guessing how it will end; dead the whole time? Aliens did it? The ghost wasn’t a ghost? Less of a concern is what takes place after this plot-bomb has been deployed, when in most cases what follows could easily serve as a story in its own right. This narrative void is where Coherence lives; a film that plays its hand within the first twenty minutes and spends the rest of its duration dealing with how people would -or can- react to such a situation. The Twilight Zone comparison is especially apt in that Coherence is a film which deals more with the metaphysical than the supernatural. Playing like a sci-fi equivalent of the brilliant 2012 comedy It’s a Disaster we’re mostly confined to a single (debatably) location, with the twists and turns all taking you deeper into the rabbit hole instead of expecting your jaw to drop at the mere sight of it.
Director James Ward Byrkit has achieved something quite remarkable with a minuscule budget; something which provokes thought and inspires theories on a fraction of the budget usually necessary to ask these kinds of questions. The dialogue is primarily improvised and while some actors are stronger than others there isn’t a single bad performance in the group. While the cast consists mainly of unknowns (Buffy’s Nicholas Brendon being the most well-known of the bunch) all characters have a distinct personality established during the opening and most are given the opportunity to either expand upon this or perform a complete personality reversal thanks to the mind-bending plot. Emily Baldoni is our constant for the night, offering up theories about the comet and providing a sympathetic character for us to hold onto as events unfold. It’s a great performance from Baldoni and her growing anxiety is matched only by her determination to keep the group from coming apart, both as individuals and as a unit. The camera stays loose and handheld throughout, complimenting the performances and dialogue while helping to sell the spontaneity that comes with each revelation and our group’s reaction to it.
The night progresses and with each decision made a million more become available until the paranoia becomes stifling and we’re lost deep within in a quagmire of choice. Unfortunately the medium dictates some degree of closure and so after an exponential increase in possibility Coherence eventually sharpens focus onto a single event and ends not on a chasm staring into the abyss but rather a character-specific ellipsis. This was perhaps necessary, but it becomes harder to emotionally invest in one small piece of a picture when you’ve seen the whole thing.
There are echoes of other low-budget sci-fi from recent years like Primer, The Sound of My Voice and Another Earth (the last two directed by Brit Marling), but it differs from all of these with its relentless pace and willingness to fully engage with its concept at all times. Coherence juggles character development and genre thrills seamlessly, exploiting its concept for maximum paranoia and excitement. See it, see it again, see if it’s different.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★