In a summer dominated by superheroes, mutants, giant lizards and aging action stars, it’s challenging to find room for a film that dares not to be a bombastic blockbuster. However, sometimes the film that dares to go against the typical cinematic titans of the summer movie season can impress just as much as a man throwing a vibranium shield, or a dragon soaring across a frozen sea.
Director James Ward Byrkit’s science-fiction indie film, Coherence, provides intelligence and subtlety to a season typically associated with explosions. For those who are looking for a science-fiction film with a focus on the plot and characters, Coherence is the movie you need to see this week.
In the film’s opening, viewers see a lone woman driving down a street while talking on her cell phone. She’s planning to meet friends at a dinner party with her boyfriend. Her phone suddenly goes dead, and even stranger, cracks in her hand. She doesn’t know why and is even more perturbed by the presence of a shooting comet overhead.
The party is pleasant enough. Small talk eventually turns into more serious discussions. There’s some animosity between particular members of the group, but it’s brushed off as guests change the subject to the mysterious comet blazing across the night sky. Suddenly, the lights go out at their house, and almost every single residence in the neighborhood. They notice that only one home two blocks away from them has its lights on. Like a moth to a flame, they’re instantly attracted to it and go to investigate why this particular place is the only one to have power. What they see shocks them and it sets them down a path that might possible destroy everything that they are.
Revealing too much about Coherence could potentially take away from the more shocking moments. To put it simply, the film deals with an astronomical anomaly that causes a series of reality-bending events. Viewers follow eight friends as the attempt to deal with this event, and what it reveals about who they really are.
The film feels very much like a classic Twilight Zone episode. Honestly, if I wasn’t told that Byrkit wrote this, I would think this was a forgotten script written by Rod Serling himself. Relying less on special effects and CGI creatures like most science-fiction movies, Coherence delves into the more psychological aspects of how we view ourselves. What would we do when we are abruptly introduced to a completely terrifying situation that forces us to reveal our true nature in the presence of those we think we really know? That’s the type of film Coherence is.
It’s easy to tell that the actors had room to improvise their actions and dialogue. It certainly feels that way in the beginning of the film. The relationship drama is meant to ease the viewer into a false calm. While amicable at dinner, these characters have a level of tension between them that rears its ugly head over the course of their traumatic night together. These people are not dumb. Don’t expect them to be acting like idiotic horny teenagers in a slasher film. They’re normal people with their own thoughts and opinions. Yes, some of them can act a little self-obsessed or egotistical, but that’s what makes them feel so real.
Unlike most science-fiction or horror films, the individuals in Coherence quickly realize the type of situation they’re in and work tirelessly to escape it. They recognize that what is happening to them is completely out of the ordinary, but they still work together to try to figure everything out. Should they attempt to protect themselves and fight against a threat they never encountered before? Is there even a threat to begin with? Some of them act in rash ways, and their rashness is returned tenfold.
Before long, seemingly meaningless objects become increasingly important as the movie progresses. Glow sticks, a ping pong paddle, a plant in a vase and a never ending series of scribbled notes take the place of a typical CGI monster hiding under the bed. Even seemingly insignificant pieces of dialogue and interactions between characters become huge revelations. Paying attention to the littlest of details is necessary to follow the film’s ever evolving plot. Thankfully, the filmmakers don’t feel the need to point out all the clues. It’s up to the viewer to catch some of the secrets and realize their impact on the story.
Coherence is very much the type of film to see with a bunch of friends, and it provides more than enough intense discussions to be had long after the credits have rolled. It’s a smart and well-written science-fiction mystery. You’ll be more than pleased to get the chance to see Coherence when it’s finally released in theatres Friday, June 20.