sat 02/03/2024

Coherence | reviews, news & interviews



Is this a movie or a postgrad science project?

Em (Emily Foxler) and Kevin (Maury Sterling) remain stoical in the face of cosmic disturbances

This almost-no-budget feature by writer/director James Ward Byrkit was created by gathering eight of his actor-friends in his Santa Monica living room, and giving each of them a daily page of notes about their character on which to base their improvised performance. Five nights of shooting gave Byrkit enough material for the finished product, but questions must be asked about whether the process justified the flick's 88 minute running time.

Coherence resembles a postgrad science project masquerading as drama. Byrkit's aim was to explore the theoretical notion of parallel universes and alternative realities (the director, if not his cast, had a master plan and knew where he wanted his narrative to go), for which he created a set-up in which eight friends gather for a dinner party on a night when a comet happens to be passing overhead. This heavenly phenomenon seemingly exerts bizarre effects on time, space and (conveniently) phone and internet connections, leaving the protagonists stranded in their own bubble, then gradually becoming aware that their self-regarding preoccupations are nowhere near as unique and precious as they assumed they were.

The unscripted approach works up to a point, as the characters slurp wine and start revealing details about their relationships and personal histories. Em (Emily Foxler) is a dancer who, through bad luck and bad judgement, missed out on a major career break. Mike (Nicholas Brendon) used to have a regular role in the TV drama Roswell, but has become an ex-actor with a drink problem. Em has been having a relationship with Kevin (Maury Sterling), but when Amir (Alex Manugian) arrives with Laurie (Lauren Maher), it's not long before the latter's history with Kevin starts creating turbulence. The delayed-action revelation of Mike's illicit affair with Beth (Elizabeth Gracen), wife of Hugh (Hugo Armstrong, pictured below), sprays some more kerosene into the mix.  

So far, so soapy, but the going starts to get weird when the house is struck by a power cut. In the darkness, our dinner guests notice a single nearby house which still has all lights blazing. When Hugh and Amir venture out to investigate, they see a living room which looks identical to their own. They also bring back a box, and are amazed to discover that it contains photographs of all eight guests, seemingly taken that very evening.

What follows is an intriguing, but never very involving, sequence of multiple identities, baffling conundrums and seemingly inexplicable events. The verité-style filming and squeals of panic from the actors when, for instance, somebody knocks at the front door suggest that we might have strayed into Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity territory, but there's not much about the characters that makes you care whether they live to eat quinoa and echinacia supplements another day, or get sucked into an intra-dimensional black hole. Byrkit eventually felt viewers needed a leg up, and inserted an instruction-manual interlude about theories of "quantum decoherence" and the notion of co-existing realities as alluded to in the paradox of "Schrödinger's cat". But obviously no self-respecting feline would have been gullible enough to fall for any of this nonsense.

The passing comet exerts bizarre effects on time, space and (conveniently) phone and internet connections, leaving the protagonists stranded in their own bubble


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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