Director: James Ward Byrkit
Starring: Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon
Imagine you were told by your friend to come to his house for dinner. Your friend happens to be a director and you happen to be an actor, so you know it’s some sort of gig, but you’re not exactly sure what. You arrive at your friend’s house, meet 7 strangers who were also told to arrive at the same time, and are asked to be a part of a no-budget movie. You don’t get a script, just a character background. You don’t get lines, those you gotta make up on the spot. And over the course of the next five days, you and these other people pair up as fictional couples, sit down to dinners, and attempt to act, not really knowing why. Each day you’re given a few notes, but have no idea what notes were given to the other actors, making each scene an improvisation and a surprise. Eventually, the plot weaves itself together, strange occurences begin, and a movie is made. Sound cool? That’s exactly what happened in the creation of Coherence, once of the best, most original, and coolest sci-fi movies you’ll see.
A group of friends gather together for a dinner party. They all go way back; husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, exes, BFFs. It’s a gang with history, with knowledge of each other that can only come with time. Em & Kevin; dating and at a pivotal decision-making time in their relationship. Mike & Lee; the hosts and a pleasant couple, despite past struggles. Beth & Hugh; married intellectuals. And lastly, Amir & Laurie; on a date, Laurie being Kevin’s ex-girlfriend. Perhaps there’s a little strain, maybe some hidden resentment, but mostly this is a collection of old friends who enjoy each other’s company. On a night when a comet will enter Earth’s atmosphere, creating a beautiful display but a little cellular interference, this dinner party commences in the normal way; with a lot of laughter, a good bit of wine, and stories from younger days.
But this idyllic scene won’t last long. The comet seems to be interfering with a bit more than it was supposed to. No one’s cell phones work, cell screens begin inexplicably cracking, and then the city loses power. Well, not the whole city, there’s a house just down the street that seems to be lit, though one must walk through a spot of pitch blackness to get there. And here’s where things really get strange. That house looks exactly like this house, the table inside is laid out for a dinner party just like the one the friends are having, and events that happen there seem to also happen here. Just stay inside and wait the weirdness out, right? But what if notes arrive at the door that are in your own handwriting? What if pictures surface that show you later in the evening? And what if you can’t be sure that you’re in the right place anymore, or if the people around you are indeed your friends?
Like so many of you, I’m a sucker for a reality-shift story. Be it time travel, or multiple dimensions, or scientific anomalies, we love a good mind-bending plot, one with enough science to seem plausible and enough suspense to freak us out. Coherence is exactly that; creepy, thrilling, fascinating, absurd, but believable, a film based on theoretical fact and brought to life with intentional drama. You could spend the whole movie trying to tie together all the pieces, trying to make sense of it all, or you could just sit back and enjoy the chaos. Either way, this is a movie made for entertainment, but never cheaply done. Although, the way in which the film was shot & created was cheap beyond measure, a bunch of actors getting together for a few days to make a movie about who-knows-what. The improv, the real emotion, the actual shock, the natural flow of events; Byrkit created something here that you won’t see again.
It reminded me of a combination of The One I Love and It’s a Disaster, though better and less comical than both those films. It took the dinner party element, added in the blended reality story line, and came out with a sci-fi drama that was frighteningly realistic. But idea aside, the film would have failed if it hadn’t had naturally gifted actors to pull off the trick. A few of the ensemble were a little weak, but they were actually the lesser used of the characters, perhaps intentionally. The three that were focused on the most frequently (Em, Kevin, Mike) were the strongest of the cast, and so succeeded in making the whole thing work. Emily Baldoni was phenomenal as Em, carrying the plot as the undisputed lead. She was vulnerable, frightened, but determined, and always seemed normal in a refreshing way, reacting to situations like a regular person would. And perhaps that’s what makes Coherence so special; it’s a movie of actual reactions, real emotion, natural dialogue, and a base story that must have been incredibly fun to be a part of.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the video quality belies the low-budget and small-scale production. It’s a visual that is just clear enough not to be distracting, but still retains an intimate feel. Not that it’s meant to look like a hand-held camera or found footage, but the style in which the film was shot makes audiences feel like part of the action. The picture quality is perfect for the film, if not a perfectly crisp visual. The use of color is excellent, with a penchant for yellows and muted tones. Darkness is used as a tool, not a distraction, and each scene seems crafted with detail and a good eye.
Audio – There are two audio options on the DVD, Dolby Digital Stereo or 5.1. You can also watch the film with feature length audio commentary. The language of the film is English, with an option for English subtitles for the hearing impaired. The sound quality of the film is spot on, with a nice balance, good editing, and good mood music.
Extras – Many extras are available on the disc. Behind the Scenes of Coherence is a featurette with the cast and crew, sixteen minutes of inside looks with the crew, with scenes from the film interspersed. Camera Test Footage is three minutes of director James Ward Byrkit explaining some of his ideas over top of a testing session. There are also five trailers: Coherence, Terribly Happy, Bellflower, We Need To Talk About Kevin, & It’s a Disaster.
Highly Recommended. The idea of creating a mostly improvised movie is not extremely original. Many directors have done it and succeeded, as the resulting film feels so authentic and realistic, something that many of us are looking for when we sit down to watch a movie. What makes Coherence so special is that it is improv sci-fi. It has a complicated and scientific story line that is brought to life by the use of improv, allowing for the characters to be developed organically while the plot twists around them. This is a mind-bending, though-provoking, bare bones film that delivers both an entertaining story and high quality acting. The video is great, so is the audio, and there are many extras on the DVD. Watch with confidence.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay