‘What if we’re the dark version?’
We like to pretend that cinema is complex, but it isn’t really. Like a play, a film requires a number of key elements. Characters, plot, lighting, setting and a script. Everything from the Godfather to Howard the Duck lives within those confines, and cinema does just fine as a machine made up of those component parts. What happens then if you take one of those elements away? Is the whole thing thrown into chaos? Writer/director James Ward Byrkit attempts to answer that very question in his debut feature Coherence…
A comet passing overhead results in a dinner party already seething with unspoken resentments to be knocked even further off its axis. Em (Emily Baldoni) battles with the loss of her dream job with Laurie (Lauren Maher) as the agitator-in-chief. The men at the party are respectively arrogant (Kevin – played by Maury Sterling), determined (Nicholas Brendon’s Mike) and accepting (Hugh as played by Hugo Armstrong).
So far, so normal. The setup is intriguing and the execution even better, but it is the methods used to reach the final destination that marks Coherence out from its peers. Rather than having a script, the actors would be handed notes that would say things like ‘stop Mike from leaving’, and they would have to act accordingly. By having only a vague idea at best as to what direction each actor was following, Byrkit ensures an incredibly authentic and natural style throughout that makes the viewer feel more like a voyeur than a consumer of entertainment.
Coherence is a sci-fi film that doesn’t rely on special effects, it is a character study without a script, in short, it’s an oddity. But it’s also an oddity that never feels gimmicky or forced. A curio for sure, but one that probably has something for everyone.