Dir: James Ward Byrkit
Starring: Emily Foxler, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendan, Elizabeth Gracen, Lorene Scafaria, and Hugo Armstrong
From Oscilloscope Laboratories
By Monte Yazzie (www.thecodafilms.com)
“Coherence” is a puzzle of a science fiction film. Director James Ward Byrkit mixes his film with a little bit of both science fiction and horror; a passing comet that hints at the introduction familiar to many zombie and alien invasion films, “Twilight Zone” storytelling aspects, and the psychological effects imposed on a group of friends forced into survival mentality. It’s not hard to identify the plethora of genre films that embody these narrative elements on display. It’s impressive that all these qualities are found in a low-budget first feature that mostly takes shape in one location.
A group of friends gather for dinner the same night a comet passes Earth, this renders power outages and loss of cellular service. A house down the street still has power and a couple of the guys from the group decide to investigate. Byrkit doesn’t spend much time satisfying the horror movie clichés, aside from unusual noises, but instead builds tension with the characters at his disposal. The focus aptly remains on the psychological stresses of the group who move quickly from assessment of the situation to application of the theories they build. These ideas are surprisingly well formed with science, both central and fringe, found in a textbook that assists in the discovery of the secrets brought on by the anomaly.
As the night progresses the story transitions into more puzzling territory as the group separates and the attention keys on the most compelling character in the group, Em (Emily Foxler). Foxler is the standout performance of the group; her character is a former professional dancer who is conflicted with a past that passed her by. This reference to the past plays a key theme in the film’s structure, which utilizes science fiction standards to find the parallels between time and humanity. Whether it’s the straightforward explanation of Erwin Schrödinger's paradoxical thought experiment involving the state of being, alive or dead, of a cat or the imposed confusion utilized by Byrkit in the portrayal of the characters to one another, the film simply moves from one thought to another.
The film makes no apologies for being complicated. The mystery transitions often, shifting focus from character allegiances to a race against extinction. With so many different twists the film becomes lost in the misperceptions it promotes while building towards the finale. This unfortunately makes the ingenious puzzle lose some of the initial intrigue that Byrkit carefully formed throughout the film.
“Coherence” is a low budget thriller at its core, one that is infused excellently with creative science fiction conventions. “Coherence” explores more than just surface genre standards while also attempting to examine the dynamics found in personal identity and human relationship. While the film doesn’t exactly find a place to finish that is as satisfying as the progression throughout, it’s definitely worth a watch for genre fans looking for something different.
Monte’s Rating / 3.25 out of 5.00