23rd Jan2015

‘Coherence’ DVD Review

by Stuart Wright

Stars: Emily Foxler, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Lorene Scafaria, Elizabeth Gracen, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher, Hugo Armstrong | Written and Directed by James Ward Byrkit

coherence-EIFF

Coherence centres on eight friends enjoying a very grown up, suburban dinner party. A comet is passing by Earth and changes to the atmosphere are making some of them jumpy and uncomfortable. An unexplainable shattered iPhone screen is an early warning sign that something unusual is coming their way. During what seems like the longest night, their real lives, jarred by this astronomical anomaly, are confronted with multiple, alternative realities of themselves.

Their problems start with a power cut and the intriguing sight of just one house in the entire neighbourhood that still has its lights on. Two of the dinner party go and investigate. When they return one has a cut on his head and doesn’t want to talk about what he’s seen. The other has a security box that contains a table tennis paddle and photographs of them all with numbers written on the back. It sets in motion a series of mindbending discoveries that defies all usual logic.

The setting is largely contained to the one house. This makes the action instantly claustrophobic and conflict within the group spiky as tensions rise. Writer/director James Ward Byrkit offers us a veneer of respectability with the choice of civilised, aspirant middle class people in their forties as his cast/characters. This works well because the central problem is a living, breathing puzzle for them to solve. Given their maturity, they don’t overreact in the early stages. Instead they set about dealing with the mystery with competitive zeal – like it’s a team building exercise. However, the more they close in on a tangible explanation, the less sense it makes until their Bermuda Triangle like madness feeds in on itself.

The performances are very natural. This is helped by the close proximity of what appears, at times, to be hand held cameras. Rather like an expanded version of the dinner party scene from Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2011). Much of the dialogue seems to be improvised. With the convoluted nature of the unfolding story this is some achievement.

For the sci-fi geeks Coherence does utilise some real scientific theories to imagine a rip in the fabric of space and time – the chaos that ensues is the drama caused when humans are first, confused, second, scared, and third, humbled, by the possibilities of multiple universes right under their noses. Overall it is one the most cerebrally satisfying films around. It’s Memento (Chris Nolan, 2000) and/or Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995) smart with Primer (Shane Carruth, 2004) budgetary constraints.

Coherence is released on DVD on February 16th.

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