Genre: Mystery, Sci-Fi
Director: James Ward Byrkit
James Ward Byrkit
Music: Kristin Øhrn Dyrud
Cinematography: Nic Sadler
Filmmaker James Ward Byrkit’s light flyweight feature debut fits intelligently in the low-budget indie Sci-Fi scene on the US soil after the millennium, with prominent precedents like works of Shane Carruth (PRIMER 2004, UPSTREAM COLOR 2013) and Richard Schenkman’s THE MAN FROM EARTH, 2007).
Shot sequentially in 5 days, almost exclusively in Byrkit’s own house, COHERENCE has an ensemble of eight (all Byrkit’s friends), who was separately given their own notes to indicate what they would do in the subsequent scenes, then they would just improvise their dialogues and actions without really knowing neither what exactly was happening, nor what their co-stars would react, barring the co-writer Alex Mangian (plays Amir), as the mole among them. This unconventional tack effectively enlivens an organic ferment crackling with confusion, confrontation, frustration, delusion and red-herrings (a granola empath also believes in chemical medicines, lol!), they are not brainiac geeks, but ordinary folks enwrapped in the bizarre parallel realities caused by quantum decoherence owing to a comet buzzing around close to the earth surface.
Thankfully, Byrkit doesn’t dwells on the aberrant phenomenon’s theoretical nitty-gritty, as the more rarefied and esoteric PRIMER has done, instead he precipitates the hapless characters to make more decisions to further complicate and multiply their different universes (through variant dices and random items they choose to single their house out among numerous identical others), while past secrets, concealed affections are timely teased out to keep messing with their scrape, until one of them, Emily (Baldoni) steps up as a decisive force, who is disillusioned by her current reality – the strained relationship with her boyfriend Kevin (Sterling), the career setback as a dancer, and surreptitiously sneaks out to find an alternative universe where things haven’t been influenced by their mind-boggling discovery, wishes for a refresh start.
It is eyebrow-raising to see that as soon as they realize the existence of their doppelgängers, the knee-jerking reaction of Mike (Brendon), a former TV actor and alcoholic, is to kill the other self, as if wanton killing is the solution for everything. Why not just talk to another you and try to get a bigger picture of the whole idea? Where is one’s natural curiosity? Nope, its $50,000 budget cannot afford to pull off that kind of special effect, thus, as a default choice, such a self-loathing inclination actually has been carried out in the final act, wound up with a suggestive twist in the next morning, when the comet has gone outbound to afar, there are two Emily stuck in this universe, which means there will be a distressed Mike futilely wandering around to look for his Emily in another reality. The curious thing is what happens next then? A sequel on the drawing board?
COHERENCE’s economical structure (not the cheap lightning or its sometimes vertiginous camerawork) precedes Paolo Genovese’s acclaimed drama PERFECT STRANGERS (2016), both take place where a group of close-friends are enjoying their dinner while something usual is happening in the sky. Only the latter is a killjoy moral lesson sparked by a seemingly harmless game, which they all wish it had never happened; whereas the former, inventively juggles with the abstruse concept and trivial melodrama, manages to spread out a cerebral sea-changing revelation, or at the very least, a very ghost of it.