Coherence

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We have met the enemy …

Doncha just love a good mind screw? Coherence is a movie you’re going to talk about, so if you’re the kind of person who likes to put films in the “file and forget” category, don’t bother. And quick, name the last film you really talked about. Coherence is better than that.

Now, hang with me, because it doesn’t start out “better than that.” Eight friends are having dinner together. The weight of small talk smothers the room. The overhead comet may or may not be responsible for the shattered smartphone windows, but that’s minor stuff. A story or two is exchanged about how a similar close-flying comet drove Finns crazy back in the 1920s. Huh … dinner party, personality hints, bad camerawork, weird stuff starts to happen; this isn’t Cloverfield again, is it? Because I’m gonna lose this thing right now if I see some stupid monster.

Suddenly, the power goes out. The internet goes with it. I swear, we used be a lot braver in the dark before smartphones existed. One (1) house in the entire suburb has power and two of the men go to investigate. Up to this point, the only notable thing about Coherence is that Xander from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is in the cast. The mood has grown quiet and anxious. A bump at the house causes a jump. “Go see what it is!” “No, don’t!” Are you people for real? Calm down. It’s just a power outage.

And then the two men return.

Neither Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) nor Amir (Alex Manugian) can adequately explain what happened while they were gone. Neither man knows why Hugh suddenly has a big gash on the temple or why they retrieved a lock box from outside the house they visited. The others press for answers. WE press for answers. After a film eternity (probablimagey no more than 30 seconds, but when you want answers, you want answers, dammit!), Hugh admits he peeked into the house and saw themselves. WHA…?!  Xander jimmies open the lock box. Its contents are as follows: a ping pong paddle and photographs of each of them with a number on the back. WHA …?!  Amir insists the picture of him was taken this very evening; he’s wearing a sweater he bought today – but the picture hasn’t been taken yet. WHA …?! Hugh writes the other house a note asking to borrow batteries. Footsteps. A thump on the door. Investigation. The very note Hugh is writing is now their door. WHA…?!

You realize when you pull out Schrödinger’s cat as a plot point you’re gonna leave the mainstream audience behind. It reminds me of my collegiate trash-talking: “yo momma is the Allegory of the Cave.”

After all that foreplay, the film doesn’t really get going until you get the women involved. The men are problem solvers; they want to end the confusion one way or another. The women mostly want to understand the confusion. It takes a while, but this film is really about Em (Emily Baldoni) – who seems the only one interested in taking advantage of what she understands.

Coherence is shot like a Lars von Trier film – awkward zooming, the occasional need for focus, less than industry standard film quality … look, I’m telling you right now, the found footage genre really doesn’t do anybody a favor; one of the uglier side-effects is the empowerment of hundreds of cinematographers who have no idea what they’re doing … but I digress. Unlike a von Trier film, the shoddy camera work is a partial boon to Coherence as it leaves the viewer even more desperately anxious about what’s going on, which is exactly the point. You’ll say to yourself, “wait. Was that the same group all with red glowsticks instead of purple?! Go back, movie, I want a better look.” Coherence needs that ambiguity to build the tremendous sense of paranoia.

Don’t get me wrong; I still hate bad camerawork – but it does have its uses. Coherence is humorless, a tad on the one-note side and shot almost entirely within one small house and yet, in its own way, is the sharpest film I’ve seen in a year or two. Who are you, James Ward Byrkit?

Eight have a crisis they don’t understand
When events show anomalies rudely unplanned
Is danger near?
Perhaps what we fear —
Life is one giant Möbius band

Not Rated, 89 Minutes
D: James Ward Byrkit
W: James Ward Byrkit
Genre: Paranoia!
Type of person most likely to enjoy this film: Me
Type of person least likely to enjoy this film: People who don’t like to be challenged

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2 Responses to “Coherence” Subscribe

  1. dawson July 19, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    The only bad point of the film was the use of Schrodingers Cat. Everyone knows what this is now. Although it’s a perfect analogy of what’s happening I wish they’d use a different paradox so I’d have something new to talk about at the pub.

    By the way, a perfect review again, this has become my go to place to see if we share the same thoughts. Luckily on this one, we do.

  2. Jim July 20, 2015 at 6:47 am #

    Thank you, dawson, that’s very kind.

    I give Schrödinger’s cat a pass because, although you are 100% correct that this isn’t a secret any longer, it may prove elusive to future generations, like Munch’s The Scream. If Coherence becomes the cult classic I think it will, the film will need that discovery type of appeal to the fresh faces of the future who suddenly decide they want more out of cinema than a Michael Bay explosion.

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