Review: Coherence

Oscilloscope Laboratories

In his 2013 directorial debut, writer-director James Ward Byrkit (Rango) delivered a science-fiction classic on a $50,000 budget. As Coherence will teach you, stranger things can happen.

Miller’s Comet is expected to fly past Earth for the first time in decades while eight friends hold a dinner party. Em (Emily Baldoni) is on her way to dinner when her phone screen mysteriously cracks in her hand. Things only get stranger as the other guests, including her boyfriend Kevin (Maury Sterling), begin to arrive. When the power goes out for the entire block, Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) mentions that his scientist brother asked him to call if anything weird happens. 

In search of a phone, Hugh and Amir (Alex Manugian) leave the safety of the house for the only house on the block that appears to have power. When Hugh and Amir return bloody and battered with little memory of obtaining an unfamiliar white metal box, the group discovers that the other house is populated by versions of themselves from an alternate universe. With the universe potentially collapsing in on itself and creating an “us or them” scenario, the group must work together to figure out how to address problems that they themselves might cause.

Though a sci-fi film at its core, Coherence contains thriller and horror DNA. Coherence begs its audience to put themselves at the dinner table with their spouse and friends. What are you capable of in a moment of weakness? What are your friends capable of? Is there a dark side to a friend that you choose not to confront? These questions besiege Em as she contends with the party guests in the other house as much as her own.

Fifteen minutes into Coherence’s 89-minute runtime, you will begin to feel the euphoric burn of your brain in motion, examining all possibilities. That sensation is only enhanced by an exhilarating series of events that don’t let up until the credits roll. Coherence features serviceable performances from its entire cast, led by Swedish actress Baldoni in its starring role. Coherence is marred by smaller technical details, like the lighting, which was frequently overbearing and distracting. The opening minutes of ad-libbed dialogue are a slog to get through, but once the mysterious comet consumes the story, you’ll think of little else.

Coherence, in spite of an unorthodox production and a shoestring budget, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Children of Men, Gravity, and Annihilation as one of the best science fiction films of the century.