|'It is very tempting to pass judgement on these characters, to point out that you should never underestimate the ability of a group of US indie protagonists to talk round in circles or make dubious logical leaps. But, of course, we all do that'|
Depending on your tolerance level for watching slightly annoying characters arrive for a dinner party, shot and delivered in an improvised manner, the opening twenty minutes or so of Coherence will be up there with the most toe-curling things you've seen recently. Stick with it though, because behind this hipster setup lies a Science Fiction indie that will stay with you long after the fantastic Laura Veirs song Galaxies plays out the end credits.
Beyond the dinner party setup, James Ward Byrkit's film approaches its genre subtly. As guests, led by Emily Baldoni's slightly neurotic Em, arrive, there are some odd occurrences (Em's phone screen breaks in an unexplained manner) and passing reference made to a comet that will be travelling overhead during dinner. From here, things get slightly stranger, as a power cut drives the group to investigate the sole house on the street with lights on.
Byrkit weaves some nice Horror-laced Sci-Fi into the mix, pitching things at a similar, if less refined, level to Brit Marling and Mike Cahill's Another Earth. There's a lesson behind this that if you want to write good Science Fiction, make sure your first understand some of the Science. Byrkit does and his film comes across at a notably higher level than alternative 'look, we found a time machine!'-style narratives.
The thinking behind the film speaks to our own human reactions in both everyday and extraordinary situations. It is very tempting to pass judgement on these characters, to point out that you should never underestimate the ability of a group of US indie protagonists to talk round in circles or make dubious logical leaps. But, of course, we all do that, and sometimes wish we could take it back. 'We're not at war with the house down the street', proclaims Hugh (Hugo Armstrong, who is probably the strongest of the support, next to Baldoni), but the very fact that he is saying that shows that, actually, it is a possibility to be considered by someone, at some point. Byrkit not only tells you about this but then demonstrates it. 'Do something else', will be a common screaming refrain from some audiences, but would doing something else lead to somewhere else and what would the consequences of that be? It's an old question, and there are problems with the telling of it, but Byrkit generally considers it well.
The conclusions of those very questions are inevitably held by Em, who, Byrkit seems to suggest, only has good intentions for herself and the group at heart. Where those very intentions lead her though, by the end of the film, speaks to the previous considerations around intentions and pre-judgement, helped by a passing comet.
Coherence is currently playing on Netflix in the UK.