For the next chapter in our Hidden Gem series, I have gone for Coherence (James Ward Byrkit, 2013) Much like in my previous review of The Mind’s Eye (Joe Begos, 2015), Coherence feels very similar in that it’s low budget, highly influenced by films in its genre and sticks to what it knows. I find myself drawn to seek out these lesser known titles for these reasons. I’ve watched a lot of the big budget stuff and its great to see new directors adding their own spin on some well worn ground.
When a group of friends have a dinner party on the night of an astrological anomaly, strange things begin to happen. Lights go out, phones become inoperable and the whole neighbourhood goes silent. When the group notice that a house down the road still has power and they decide to visit it. To their surprise, the group sees themselves in the other house and things start to get weird as reality starts to shift.
I ask you to bear with me, as I have had to use Wikipedia to help me explain some of the films’ science bits. It is based on Schrodinger’s Cat theory, a thought experiment from quantum mechanics suggesting that multiple and contradictory states of physical reality can theoretically exist concurrently until observed. The title of the film refers to quantum decoherence, which ensures different realties cannot interact with one another nor be perceived simultaneously, a law that the comets’ appearance somehow breaks.
Coherence doesn’t really have any big name actors appearing it, the most well-known being Nicolas Brendan (Xander from Buffy The Vampire Slayer), however the relatively unknown cast is the main strength of the film. Coherence opens in a small dinner party setting where we get to know a little bit about all the characters and some of the pre-existing relationships they have. Some are lifelong friends while others are meeting for the first time. One guest brings his new girlfriend, while his ex wife is part of the group. The opening scenes are very intimate, which in turn creates a comfortable environment for building and growing the budding relationships. However once the blackout hits and strange things start to happen, tensions steadily increase. As tensions increase so do the anomalies.
The film I would relate this most to is Primer (Shane Carruth, 2004), I say this because the film prefers to focus on characters’ reactions rather than the events which are unfolding. Much like Primer, this film dips its toe into the realm of hardcore science with the creation of multiple universes.
Byrkit achieves this through the characters dialogue (he also wrote the script), they try to make their own rules based on theories and see how that effects the other house, such as putting numbered photographs of each of them into a box and numbering them all with coloured markers. Later in the film they discover that their dopplegangers have done the same but numbered them differently and with different coloured markers. I don’t think many of us are versed in multiple reality interpretation or the idea that more than one universe exists, so all of the actions we see in the film seem rather plausible. You’re made to feel about as clued up as characters are on the events, thereby ramping up the tension by finding yourself, along with the characters, wondering what’s going to happen next…
As the film draws to a close and questions like ‘what if we kill the other group?’, ‘what if we’re the evil versions?’ and also ‘how do we leave? Arise, it becomes apparent that they are stuck in the house and whenever they try leaving they end up back at where they started, whilst also being somewhere else. With the film basically being shot in a few rooms of a house this make the setting for the film all the more effective as it creates a somewhat claustrophobic feel which only adds to the mounting tension and fear of the unknown.
There is no notable soundtrack or special camera tricks to speak of in Coherence, but what it does offer is a lovely build-up of tension, some major WTF moments, and genuine uncertainty on where the film is going. It is a nice fresh new take on the sci-fi genre. You’ll probably start to question what you would do if put in the same situation with multiple viewings are almost certainly required. As they say hindsight is twenty twenty and watching this hidden gem again provides you with the opportunity to pick up on previously missed hidden plot details which enriches the story and hints at even deeper mysteries within the film.
All in all it’s a great little low budget sci-fi film with tones of twilight zone. Watch it!