With Coherence, writer/director James Ward Byrkit’s first film, you’ll find a movie that should place him on the “one to watch” of any critics. Why the high praise? Well, Byrkit has served up a solid, character-driven independent sci-fi story with some brilliant, heady ideas. And, unlike many low-budget pictures, the execution is great.
So what’s the story? A huge comet is passing very close to earth. Strange things keep happening – iPhones crack spontaneously, and cell reception drops in and out – as a group of friends gather for a dinner party. The idea is to help ease some of the panic due to the celestial event and enjoy each other’s company. However, things get weirder and weirder as the night goes on, and inexplicable phone damage soon becomes a very minor concern.
Soon, calm conversation and interaction grows more intense and uncertain a the party-goers grapple with the oddness of a neighborhood black that leaves only two homes unaffected. The group gets lost in a rush of dealing with everyone’s personalities while trying to make sense of the inexplicable events that are occurring.
Make no mistake, Coherence is real deal sci-fi – impossible/improbable events occur, and the picture uses this as a backdrop to explore (a) ideas that result from these events and (b) the effect of these events on people. I love that this movie sticks to those points. It reminds me of the Silver Age sci-fi books that didn’t just say “look at how cool it is that people can teleport,” but instead ask, “what happens to society and specific people in it when teleportation becomes a reality?”
In fact, the closest comparison I can make – in execution, look and tone, and the focus on people and needing the audience to pay a bit of attention – is to Shane Carruth’s Primer. That movie also told a “quiet,” but intense, tale of what happens to two “normal” scientists when they create a time machine. As with Primer, for Coherence, character is key – and you will have to listen carefully to follow what’s going on. Better still, the focus on the actors, not special effects or gizmos, makes you invested and interested in how everything will play out.
A nice little bonus is that you will probably only recognize one actor here – Nicholas Brendon, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. Here, he basically plays a version of his real self – an actor who was on some cult CW program (and you’ll laugh your ass off when you hear which one it is) – but ignoring the real-life coincidence aside, he does a really good job, as do the rest of the cast. The ensemble nature of the pic means that you get acquainted with all of these people, especially the ostensible lead, who is played quite neatly by Emily Foxler.
This is the official website. Click anywhere on the screen to get the video to not play, and click “See the Film” to jump the list of show dates and locations. In short, if each screening is up for two weeks, it should still be playing in Tucson today. It just opened in Austin, Portland, SD, and Dallas, and will go up in Seattle, Denver, and Akron on the 18th. Or you can just look on whatever ticket-buying site you prefer. It’ll also be available online on August 5th, but you should go for the big screen experience if you can…
Coherence is an excellent debut picture, a solid piece of high-concept science fiction film-making. I was so intrigued by the review I read that I actually asked the distributor for a chance to cover it. Byrkit’s work rewards your attention, and stimulates the mind of any movie goer who likes to wonder what happens when the normal rules of life start to get turned upside-down. If you live in any of those cities I mentioned and you like high-quality, low-budget films with real concepts and whatnot, then please check it out. I doubt it’ll disappoint anyone.
This motion picture was submitted for review to Man, I Love Films. Any filmmaker that would like their picture to be reviewed by the site should contact Dylan Fields (email@example.com) and Kai Parker (firstname.lastname@example.org) with details about their picture and how they will send in their submission.